Saturday, July 18, 2015

Second Half Already Looking Better Than First Half

GAME RECAP: Phils Catch Fish 6-3

The Phillies hope their second half is much better than their first, and they took a step in that direction Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. Rookie left-hander Adam Morgan pitched and hit well in a 6-3 victory over the Marlins. Morgan allowed two runs in 6 1/3 innings and he sparked a two-run rally in the sixth with his first career hit. The Phillies scored four runs in the eighth to take the lead with the help of a one-out error from Marlins center fielder Cole Gillespie, which allowed the go-ahead run to score, and a pinch-hit three-run home run from Jeff Francoeur. "You don't want to sit here and say we need to win this many games in the second half," Francoeur said of his team coming out of the All-Star break with a win. "More than anything I want to see us play good fundamental baseball. Tonight I thought we did that." Marlins ace Jose Fernandez snapped his 13-inning scoreless streak. He had allowed just one hit and one walk in his first five innings against the Phillies before Morgan's double, which went just over left fielder Michael Morse's head, a bunt single and an error led to two runs. "It's tough. You've got your ace on the mound, and you feel pretty comfortable if you're able to get him a few runs," Gillespie said. "We got him one early, but they obviously did a good job coming back there. It's kind of frustrating night. We don't want to start the second half [like this]. It's one game. We've got to move on from this one."

  • Rookie third baseman Maikel Franco drove in two of the Phillies' first three runs Friday night including the go-ahead run, but had zero RBIs to show for it. After grounding into a double play with the bases loaded in the sixth to push across the Phillies' first run, Franco accidentally came through with the deciding offensive play in his next at-bat in the eighth. The third baseman lifted a fly ball into center field that defensive replacement Gillespie overran, and the ball lipped out of his glove. The error scored Odubel Herrera from second, giving the Phillies a 3-2 lead. "I think I kind of took too sharp of an angle," Gillespie said. "When I got to the spot where I thought it was going to be landing at, it was still over my head. I kind of reached back and up [and] it went off the top of my glove. It's tough. It's definitely frustrating, especially in that spot. It's a big out, changed the whole game. It's just something I hope doesn't happen again."
  • Morgan proved himself on both sides of the diamond, coming through with another solid start and sparking an offensive rally with his first career hit. The 25-year-old lefty surrendered just four hits while walking three and striking out three. The outing was the third time in Morgan's four Major League appearances that he held his opponents to fewer than three runs. Morgan's first career hit came off Fernandez in the sixth. He scored the Phillies' first run of the game three batters later. "I just ran into it," Morgan said of the double. "I wasn't trying to do anything crazy with it. I don't know. I just kind of ran into it. It just feels good to get a hit. I feel like I'm a pretty good hitter, but the numbers just weren't there. So it feels good to get the first one off."
  • After the Gillespie error and the Francoeur home run in the eighth, Freddy Galvis continued the rally for the Phillies with a two-out single. He quickly ended the rally too, as he was caught attempting to steal second base. The Phillies asked for a review, but the replay officials confirmed the call on the field. The replay lasted a minute and 16 seconds.
  • "I think I'm just stupid enough to be able to do it." -- Francoeur, on pinch-hitting. His home run Friday night was his first career pinch-hit home run. He is now 8-for-16 with three extra-base hits and nine RBIs as a pinch-hitter in 2015.
Right-hander Chad Billingsley is looking for some consistency. He has pitched six innings in just two of his first six starts this season. He has allowed four or more runs in four of those starts. Tom Koehler (7-5, 3.40 ERA) gets the middle game of the weekend series -- a 7:05 p.m. ET start on Saturday at Philadelphia. The right-hander is 2-1 (4.30) lifetime against the Phillies.


Good Way To Start Second Half – It's no secret that the Phillies are reinventing themselves. So, for a team that has been not-so-secretly shopping multiple key contributors and entered the All-Star break with fewer than 30 wins, Friday's first game back was like a second Opening Day, a grand reopening for the new Phils. And front and center on the mound as a second Opening Day starter was 25-year-old rookie Adam Morgan, one of the many young players the Phillies are hoping can parlay a solid second half of 2015 into a future in the organization. In Friday's 6-3 win, Morgan moved toward doing just that. The lefty tossed 6 1/3 innings and allowed just two runs, surrendering four hits and three walks while striking out three. He knocked a double off Marlins' ace Jose Fernandez for his first MLB hit and scored his first run for good measure. Though Morgan didn't earn the victory, his pitching kept the opportunity alive for the team to win, a fact that he said he felt was more important than starting off the second half right. "Really I was just going out there and trying to do my job," Morgan said. "I gave my team a chance to win, and hopefully everybody jumps on. Which they will. Everybody's working hard. Nobody's doubting anything in here." The mutual understanding to which Morgan hinted referred to the team's attitude on turning around this season. But it isn't limited to that. On a smaller scale, Morgan's outing Friday showed that he and his coaches are on the same wavelength when it comes to how long the rookie is capable of going. Morgan only threw 85 pitches Friday. Based on pitch count alone he very easily could have finished the seventh inning. That being said, he struggled in the seventh, falling behind batters and working himself into two separate three-ball counts. The lefty said when that began to happen, he knew it was his time to leave the game. Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin recognized that too. "When you lose your command, when you're not throwing quality strikes, there's nothing else to say about it," Mackanin said. "You're just not throwing quality strikes. All of the sudden in the seventh with the lead or in a tie game or a close game, you lose that, then it's time to go." However, Mackanin was impressed with Morgan's poise on the mound, especially for a pitcher only four starts into his Major League career. And with the Phillies rotation about to get even more crowded as the team both returns veterans Jerome Williams and Aaron Harang from injury and further prepares for the future with the impending arrival of prospect Aaron Nola, most would think Morgan needed to make a statement in order to justify remaining in the big leagues. Despite this, Morgan doesn't list himself among those with that viewpoint. "I can't really worry about what everybody else is saying or thinking because it takes away from my game," he said.

Frenchie In The Clutch – Jeff Francoeur entered Spring Training simply wanting the opportunity to play in the big leagues again. He enters the final two weeks of July as someone mentioned in trade talks. It has been quite a turnaround for Francoeur, who hit a pinch-hit, three-run home run in Friday night's 6-3 victory over the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Francoeur is hitting .249 with 10 doubles, one triple, seven home runs, 29 RBIs and a .708 OPS in 185 at-bats. His seven homers are third on the team, despite being 10th on the team in plate appearances (196). He also is 8-for-16 with two doubles, one home run and nine RBIs as a pinch-hitter. "I think I'm just stupid enough to be able to do it, honestly," Francoeur said about pinch-hitting. But Francoeur's combination of pop, pinch-hitting prowess, strong arm and clubhouse presence could interest and help a postseason contender. The Pirates have inquired, and other teams looking for a right-handed bat could, too. "To be honest, I hope it doesn't end in two weeks," Francoeur said. "I like it here. I really do. I would love to come back. That's the front office's job. I'm going to stay away from talking about that." Francoeur smiled and glanced in the direction of Jonathan Papelbon's locker. Papelbon hasn't been shy lately about asking out of Philadelphia. "I had a talk with [team president] Pat [Gillick] in San Francisco. I think [general manager] Ruben [Amaro Jr.] knows I like it here and this team and this city," Francoeur said. "I like playing in this division. Obviously I get to go home [to Georgia] three times a year [to play the Braves]. You never know what's going to happen with that. I've been through it before and I've not been traded, so you've just got to keep playing hard." But the fact that Francoeur is answering Trade Deadline questions shows what kind of season he has had. He played just 10 games last season with the Padres, spending most of the year with Triple-A El Paso, which is why the Phillies got him on a Minor League contract in November. "He's going to have to prove to us and to himself and others that he can be a contributor to this club," Amaro said about Francoeur in Spring Training. "It's hard to tell [what his upside is]. I don't know. I know the people are excited about working with him, and hopefully he feels the same about being with us." Francoeur made the Opening Day roster and a few days later hit a three-run home run against the Red Sox to give the Phillies their first victory of the season. "I wanted an opportunity to play some more, man," Francoeur said. "They took a chance on me in camp when I didn't exactly light it up down there in Spring Training. So far it's been good."

Nola To Debut Tuesday – Phillies fans craving a glimpse of the future will have an opportunity to watch Aaron Nola make his big league debut Tuesday night against the Rays at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies selected Nola with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 Draft, and ever since, fans have been pleading for his arrival. Nola, 22, is the No. 2 prospect in the organization, according to, and the No. 28 prospect in all of baseball. "He's a highly touted prospect. We're hoping to get a good performance out of him, and it always is fun to see somebody be inserted into the team, especially this year, and give everybody a little boost," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said Friday afternoon. "That's why everybody's kind of anxious to see him perform. I know he's got good enough stuff to be competitive here. His first time in the big leagues, when you first make your first appearance, we want to find out if he's nervous, how he handles himself on the mound; if he gets into trouble, how he handles it. But you have to keep in mind it's his first appearance." Nola posted a 1.88 ERA in 12 starts this season with Double-A Reading. Opponents hit just .219 against him, but most impressively he walked just nine batters (compared to 59 strikeouts) in 76 2/3 innings. He had a 3.58 ERA in six starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, which includes five earned runs in three innings Tuesday. He had a 2.43 ERA in his previous five starts with the IronPigs. Nola is expected to join the team Monday, and it remains to be seen who gets bumped from the rotation for him, but right-hander Severino Gonzalez is a smart bet. He is 3-3 with a 7.92 ERA in seven starts. The rotation could see plenty of turnover this month. First, Cole Hamels is expected to be traded. Second, Aaron Harang and Jerome Williams could return from the disabled list. Williams (strained left hamstring) made a rehab start Friday night with Reading. Harang (left foot plantar fasciitis) is improving. "I understand Harang isn't feeling any symptoms, which is a good sign," Mackanin said. "We sure would like to get him back to the form he was in his first eight or 10 starts. That would be a bonus. We know Williams is better than he's performed, so if things come together that way and Nola makes a good impression, we'll probably be a better team the second half. As we all know, starting pitching has been less effective than we'd like it to be. If we can shore that up, that's going to make us better." Most scouts consider Nola a solid No. 3 starter, but the Phillies could use one of those right now. Other than Hamels, the Phillies are struggling to find starting pitchers who can get through six innings.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 30-62. 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 49-61-0 on this day.

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