Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Wait Is Over For Billingsley

GAME RECAP: Phillies Dodge Dodgers 7-2

In a four-game series between the Dodgers and Phillies that doubles as a reunion tour, it was Chad Billingsley's turn to beat his old mates in a 7-2 win for Philadelphia at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. One night after Jimmy Rollins knocked in the go-ahead RBIs against his old club, Billingsley, a Dodger for eight seasons, earned his first win since April 10, 2013. He threw six innings, allowing six hits and two runs, while striking out three. His lone mistake was serving up a two-run homer to All-Star catcher Yasmani Grandal in the sixth. "It's been a long road," Billingsley said. "I was pretty excited to be back out there today, being a familiar atmosphere. There were a lot of emotions." Brett Anderson had a three-start winning streak snapped in the loss for Los Angeles. He lasted five innings and tied a season-high by allowing four runs, three of which were earned. It was just the second time in his last 10 starts that Anderson did not last at least six innings. "I was OK with Brett," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He ended up with a lot of pitches, but I didn't feel like he got knocked around. There were a couple dribblers. I would've sent him back out there [in the sixth] if we didn't get into that hole there."

  • Billingsley had arguably his best start since recovering from a pair of right elbow surgeries the last two years, including Tommy John surgery in April 2013. The Phillies needed a quality start from him, too. It was just the sixth time in the last 21 games a Phillies starter pitched six or more innings, giving the bullpen a rare breather.
  • The Phillies got on the board early without a hit leaving the infield. Ben Revere beat out a grounder up the middle and stole second base. After a flyout and a walk, Justin Turner threw away a potentially inning-ending out on a grounder to third, and another infield single up the middle allowed Revere to score. "Chopped infield hits and swinging bunts, I give up a lot of those," Anderson said. "It's frustrating but at least they mishit those balls instead of squaring them up like [Jeff] Francoeur did."
  • Phillies outfielders entered the game with the second-lowest OPS (.568) in baseball, but they enjoyed a good night. Jeff Francoeur hit a two-run double in the third and homered in the seventh. Domonic Brown had two outfield assists in the first two innings. He also knocked in a run and scored a run. Revere singled and scored in the first and knocked in two runs in the sixth. "I tell you what set the tone for a good feeling were Brown's two assists," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said about the assists that came in the first two innings. "That was huge."
  • In the fifth inning, the Dodgers challenged the ruling on the field that Rollins was out on a grounder to lead off the inning. Darin Ruf fielded the grounder and flipped to Billingsley, who reached the base an instant before Rollins. The call on the field was confirmed after a review.
  • "Yeah, it was weird. When I was out at second base, I was talking to Jimmy, he was like, 'Man, it's weird seeing you in a Phillies uniform and vice versa.' I was like, 'Yeah, it's a little different.' But it's fun." -- Billingsley, on pitching against his former team, one night after Rollins beat his former team with a hit.
  • Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez went 1-for-4 to extend his career-high hitting streak to 12 games. He is hitting .451 (23-for-51) with seven multi-hit games during the streak.
The Phillies like what they have seen so far from left-hander Adam Morgan, who pitches Wednesday night at 10:10 p.m. ET against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. He allowed five hits and two runs last weekend in Atlanta, which was enough to give him a longer look in the Phillies' rotation. Clayton Kershaw takes the mound in his final start before the All-Star break. Kershaw is one of the five candidates for the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote in the National League. Kershaw has a 1.78 ERA in his last eight starts, but is 3-3 in that span.


Getting Back On Track – Chad Billingsley needed this maybe more than the Phillies needed this. Then again, maybe not. Billingsley enjoyed arguably his best start since recovering from a pair of right elbow surgeries in Tuesday night's 7-2 victory over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Billingsley, who spent the first eight years of his career with the Dodgers, allowed six hits, two runs, one walk and struck out three in six innings against his former team to pick up his first win since April 10, 2013. "It's been a long road," Billingsley said. "I was pretty excited to be back out there today, being a familiar atmosphere. There were a lot of emotions." His efforts gave the Phillies' bullpen a rare break. It was just the sixth time in the past 21 games a Phillies starter pitched six innings. But it also gave Billingsley some positive results following Tommy John surgery in April 2013 and flexor tendon surgery in June 2014, which limited him to just 12 innings the previous two seasons. Billingsley went 0-2 with a 6.75 ERA in his first three starts this season before he landed on the disabled list with a strained right shoulder. He returned Thursday against Milwaukee, but allowed 10 hits and seven runs in five innings. "It's been a long journey and hopefully I've got more to come," Billingsley said about earning the win. "There were times where you're like, 'I don't know if I'm going to ever pitch again.' And like, 'I don't know how my arm's going to feel once I get back to throwing.' I just concentrated on doing my rehab and getting my work in and strengthening up the shoulder and my elbow and here I am today." The Phillies are desperate for quality starting pitching, so Billingsley pitched well at the right time. He got some help. Phillies right fielder Domonic Brown doubled up Justin Turner at first base for an inning-ending double play in the first. Brown then threw out Yasmani Grandal at third for the first out in the second. The only mistake Billingsley made came in the sixth when he allowed a two-run homer to Grandal to the cut the lead to 6-2. "I was so pumped for Chad," said Jeff Francoeur, who went 2-for-5 with a double, a home run and three RBIs. "I know how it is, when I went back to Atlanta the first few times and how nervous I was. To think that his whole career was here, so for him to come out and do the things he did tonight was huge." Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin agreed. "That was the kind of performance we were hoping to get out of Billingsley," he said. "And it's only his second start since the rehab [assignment], so we're really happy with that. He probably could have gone back out there, but I didn't want anything to spoil a positive outing for him."

Tick Tock – The clock is ticking on the Phillies with the July 31 Trade Deadline just around the corner. But Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium that the organization is not feeling pressured to trade anybody. Of course, that might be posturing on his part, but he said the Phillies will not be forced into a trade. "If it's going to do something to help our club long-term, yes," Amaro said. "But do we need to do something? I don't think so." Amaro paused for a moment. "I would like to do something," he said. Of course, he would. The Phillies are on pace to lose 109 games and trading Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and other veterans could kick the organization's rebuilding efforts into a different gear. But depending on who is talking, either the Phillies are making unreasonable demands for their players, or contending teams are offering mid-range prospects for one of the top starting pitchers and top closers in baseball. "We've debated here internally about when is the greatest value of some of these players, a number of them," said Amaro, indicating the Phillies could wait to trade until the offseason. "When does that player become the most valuable asset? Again, a lot of it depends on who's going to step up, and who's going to satisfy some of the things that we're trying to do in a trade. If someone does, and we feel like it's the right thing to do, we'll do it. If not then we won't." So are they being lowballed? "They have their evaluations on our players," Amaro said. "I don't think it's an issue of lowballing. I think it's an issue of, like when we were in a buyers mode, trying to figure out what's best for the organization. What's best for each one of those organizations. They have to value what they want and how they want to proceed. That's really up to them."

Getting Closer – The Phillies named Triple-A right-hander David Buchanan their Saturday starter vs. the Giants. They said they never considered Triple-A right-hander Aaron Nola, who is the organization's top pitching prospect. But it sure sounds as if Nola will be in the big leagues before the end of the month. "He's getting closer," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. "At some point after the All-Star break, yeah." Of course, that could mean anytime between July 17 and the end of the regular season, but Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said he expects more changes to the rotation following the All-Star break. That could mean injured right-handers Jerome Williams and Aaron Harang rejoin the team, but with Cole Hamels expected to be traded before the July 31 Trade Deadline it almost certainly means Nola, too. "We have a plan in place, and we'll execute it," Amaro said. "We have a good thought about when he's going to be pitching for us." The Phillies outrighted right-hander Sean O'Sullivan following Monday's 10-7 loss to the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. They recalled right-hander Hector Neris to take his place on the roster. Neris will help in the bullpen until Saturday, when Buchanan will be added. The Phillies also designated right-hander Kevin Correia for assignment. Rookie right-hander Severino Gonzalez will pitch in his place Thursday. Of course, Gonzalez has not exactly pitched well. He is 3-2 with an 8.28 ERA in six starts. He has not pitched more than 5 1/3 innings in any of those starts. The inability to pitch six or more innings has been a big problem for the rotation. "I would rather give the young man an opportunity," Amaro said, explaining the difference between Correia and Gonzalez. "He's throwing better. His stuff's better. I'd rather give the young man an opportunity to do it at this stage of the game and see how he fares." "It's time to do something. It's past [time]," Mackanin said. "We're happy about getting something changed, I am at least. We got a fresh arm in the bullpen, which is huge. I don't like to keep starters on the field longer than they should, but we've been forced to do that. So we'll see. Hopefully we'll get Williams healthy and Harang healthy. Now Seve. There probably will be more changes down the road. So down the road, just get through the All-Star break and regroup, start over." The Phillies also promoted Double-A Reading left-hander Jesse Biddle to Triple-A. He will pitch Wednesday night.

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 29-57. 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 44-51-0 on this day.

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