Monday, August 31, 2015

Solid Start Not Good Enough For First Win

GAME RECAP: Padres Beat Phillies 9-4

The Padres avoided a season sweep to the Phillies on Sunday, thanks to a little star power. Matt Kemp and Justin Upton homered while James Shields allowed just one run in seven innings in a 9-4 victory at Citizens Bank Park. It was the Padres' only victory in six games this season against the Phillies. "I'm not worried about who we play, I'm worried about how we play," Padres interim manager Pat Murphy said. "We didn't play well in Washington but we squeaked out with a win. We didn't play well here, but we played better today. What I learned is that these guys still have a little fight in them. They are excited about playing [the Dodgers in the next series]. I know they are." Phillies right-hander Alec Asher made his big league debut. Asher, whom the Phillies acquired from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade, allowed a two-run homer to Kemp in the first inning to make it 2-0 and a solo homer to Upton in the third to make it 3-0. Asher then allowed a two-out single to Shields in the sixth, which scored the Padres' fourth run. "I liked him," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said about Asher. "I liked his stuff. I liked his approach. He got behind too often, he left the ball up in the zone a little too often. It's understandable when a guy is in his first Major League appearance in front of his home [fans]."

  • Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez entered the game hitting .133 (8-for-60) in his last 17 games, but he went 2-for-4 with one triple and one RBI. Mackanin hopes it is a sign. Mackanin thought about keeping on Hernandez on the bench to clear his head, but he decided against it. "I just decided to make him battle out of it," Mackanin said. "That's what we need to see. If he's going to be the everyday second baseman, we want him to play 160 games."
  • The Phillies could not get anything going offensively against Shields, except for Cameron Rupp's solo home run to right field in the second. It was Rupp's fourth home run in his last six games, and his seventh homer in August. He is the first Phillies' catcher to hit seven or more homers in a month since Mike Lieberthal hit eight in Aug. 2002. He is the first Phillies rookie catcher to have seven or more homers in a month since Butch Henline had seven in Sept. 1922. "Comfortable, seeing the ball, timing is there," Rupp said. "I'm getting a lot of playing time, and I think that just makes a huge difference, when you're getting everyday at-bats and you're seeing guys [for a second time]. I think that's been huge."
  • Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera went 4-for-4. It was the first four-hit game of his career. He has hit safely in 26 of his last 31 games. He is hitting .344 (42-for-122) in that stretch.
  • The Phillies claimed left-handed reliever Ken Roberts off waivers from the Rockies. He could join the Phillies on Tuesday when rosters expand. The Phillies' only left-hander in the bullpen right now is Adam Loewen.
  • The Mets scored 40 runs during their four-game sweep of the Phillies last week. Tensions rose Tuesday when the Phillies bench didn't take kindly to Hansel Robles' quick pitch to Darin Ruf. New York is 12-1 this season against Philadelphia.
  • New York expects to have newly acquired reliever Addison Reed activated for Monday's game. The Mets sent two minor league pitchers to Arizona to acquire Reed over the weekend. Reed owns a 4.20 ERA in 40 2/3 innings this season, and will receive high leverage chances in middle relief.

When Jerad Eickhoff made his Major League debut earlier in the month, everything was new. Suddenly, somehow, it's all already much of the same. Eickhoff and Bartolo Colon will square off for the second time in six days on Monday when the Mets and Phillies open a three-game series at Citi Field. Two of Eickhoff's three career starts have now come against Colon, who is making the 462nd start of his 18-year career. The rookie allowed four runs (three earned) over six innings to New York on Wednesday, after shutting out the Marlins over six in his MLB debut. Colon, meanwhile, is fresh off an emergency bullpen appearance on Saturday, his first in more than four years. The veteran is 2-1 with a 3.51 ERA in August.


Enjoying The Moment – At the very least, Phillies rookie Alec Asher had a memorable afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Asher is one of five prospects the Phillies acquired from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade in July. He became the second of those prospects to make his big league debut, when he started Sunday's 9-4 loss to the Padres. Asher allowed eight hits, four runs, one walk, two home runs and struck out three in 5 2/3 innings. "I liked him," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "I liked his stuff. I liked his approach. He got behind too often, he left the ball up in the zone a little too often. It's understandable when a guy is in his first Major League appearance in front of his home [fans]." Asher acknowledged he had some nerves early in the game, but he became more comfortable the more he pitched and he left feeling like he can succeed at this level. "I thought I was all right," he said. "I made a couple of bad pitches that I paid for. But I mean, I wouldn't take back the experience. It was great. You obviously want to win. But you take the experience and learn from it." Padres right fielder Matt Kemp hit a 1-0 fastball to left field for a two-run home run in the first inning to hand the Padres a 2-0 lead. Padres left fielder Justin Upton then ripped a 2-0 fastball to left field for a solo homer to make it 3-1. Asher allowed a two-out single to James Shields in the sixth to make it 4-1. Mackanin said he liked how Asher kept his composure after the homer to Kemp in the first. Asher kept calm. He kept pitching. And he almost escaped with a quality start, if not for the hit to Shields. "You don't really expect a guy making his first appearance at the Major League level to be that poised and have that kind of a mound presence," Mackanin said. "We're fortunate that we've got [Aaron] Nola who did, [Jerad] Eickhoff who did it and actually so did Asher today. He really came back after struggling in the first inning." Asher joked Saturday that he might be more nervous to hit than pitch. He had not hit since he signed with the Rangers following the 2012 Draft, when he was a fourth-round selection. Deep down, maybe Asher felt a little more comfortable when he realized his father Bob Asher introduced his first at-bat over the PA system. Bob is the PA announcer for the Class A Advanced Lakeland Flying Tigers. It was a nice touch on a milestone day. "I didn't realize it until after it happened," Asher said. "I got in the box, looked up and saw his face on the big screen. But it made sense afterward."

Adding Bullpen Depth – The Phillies acquired some bullpen depth Sunday when they claimed left-hander Ken Roberts off waivers from the Rockies. Roberts has been optioned to Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but he could join the Phillies on Tuesday when rosters expand. The Phillies are thin on left-handed relievers. They traded Jake Diekman to Texas in July. They designated Cesar Jimenez for assignment recently, and the Brewers claimed him off waivers. Then last week Elvis Araujo strained his left groin and landed on the disabled list. Roberts, 27, pitched the last six seasons (2010-15) primarily in the Rockies' Minor League system, going 22-10 with a 2.61 ERA in 216 appearances (two starts). He went 1-3 record with a 5.12 ERA this season for Triple-A Albuquerque, but appeared in only 23 games after spending time on the DL for left elbow inflammation. He posted a 5.79 ERA in nine appearances this year with the Rockies. The Rockies designated him for assignment Friday.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 52-79. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this could still end up being the worst team in franchise history… at least that is something to hope for this year! All time, the Phillies are 48-61-0 on this day.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Phillies Win Second Straight Behind Another Rookie

GAME RECAP: Phillies Edge Padres 4-3

If only the Phillies could play the Padres more frequently. They beat San Diego on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, 4-3. It is their fifth straight win over the Padres this season and seventh consecutive victory against San Diego in Philadelphia, their longest home winning streak against the Padres since a seven-game streak from July 1976 to May 1977. The Phillies also are 55-23 (.705) against the Padres since 2004. It is their best winning percentage against any opponent in that span. Phillies second baseman Darnell Sweeney hit a two-run homer in the second while Freddy Galvis had an RBI double and Adam Morgan notched an RBI single in the fourth. Morgan allowed two unearned runs in six innings to pick up the win. "I take a lot of pride in that," Morgan said about not walking a batter in 22 2/3 innings in the past four starts. "Being able to control the ball and throwing where you want it is huge to me. I don't try to give up any free bags because that's when stuff starts getting out of hand." Padres right-hander Colin Rea allowed four runs in five innings in the loss. "[The Phillies] seem to get the big hit against us, catch the line drives and this game could have been very different," Padres interim manager Pat Murphy said. "[Morgan] had a great plan against us and a couple of the balls we hit hard were caught."

  • Sweeney has had limited playing opportunities since the Phillies acquired him from the Dodgers in the Chase Utley trade, but he has tried to make the most of it. He crushed a two-run home run to left-center field in the second inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was his second homer in three starts with the Phillies. "When you watch this guy take batting practice, the ball doesn't really jump off his bat," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "I think he works on mechanics more than anything from either side of the plate. But he sure hit that ball in Miami [on Aug. 22] a long way, and today he [went] opposite field. He's got pop in his bat."
  • Phillies right-hander Luis Garcia had runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth inning, when he struck out pinch-hitter Cory Spangenberg to end the threat and preserve a one-run lead.
  • In the sixth inning, with the Phillies leading 4-2 and Kemp on first, Justin Upton lined a deep fly ball to the left-center field gap. The ball hung up just enough for Herrera to cover sixty-six feet of ground, top out at 20.1 mph according to Statcast™ and make a diving catch for the first out of the inning.
  • Phillies rookie outfielder Aaron Altherr singled to left field in the fifth inning. It was the first single of his big league career. Of course, before that he had seven extra-base hits. No player in the modern era (since 1900) has started his career with eight extra-base hits.
  • The Phillies optioned right-hander Nefi Ogando following the game to make room for Alec Asher, who will start Sunday's series finale. Asher will have his contract selected Sunday.
  • The Padres won an instant replay challenge in the eighth inning. Yonder Alonso was called out on a play at first base, but replay showed Alonso beat the throw from Galvis.
  • "He rebounded very nicely. He relies on command and control. He's certainly good in the control department. He needs to command his pitches a little bit better, but he did a number on them again. He pitched very well." -- Mackanin, on Morgan rebounding from a rough start this week against the Mets, when he allowed five runs and four home runs in 3 2/3 innings.
  • Asher was 14-years-old when he had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Asher's father Bob Asher told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the family paid $22,000 to have orthopedist James Andrews perform the surgery. They paid their final bill within the last year.
  • Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has had the most success of any Phillies when facing Shields (min. 10 ABs). Howard is 4-for-12 (.333) with a double, home run and one RBI.
  • The Padres hope to get 24-year old outfielder/first baseman Wil Myers back in the lineup sometime after Labor Day. Myers, who had right wrist surgery on June 18, could begin a rehab assignment soon after missing 100 games. He will be judged on a day to day basis on when he's ready to join the big club.

The Phillies will get to open yet another new toy from the Cole Hamels trade on Sunday as righty Alec Asher will make his debut against the Padres and James Shields. Asher is the second starter acquired in a trade with Texas that sent Hamels to the American League to make his debut this season, the other was Jerad Eickhoff, who is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts. Shields is coming off a laborious outing against the Nationals in which he needed 121 pitches over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-3 loss on Tuesday. The veteran is 2-0 in four starts lifetime against the Phillies with a 5.70 ERA and enters the game with a 4.97 ERA away from Petco Park. Asher went 2-0 in four starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley with a 2.08 ERA since arriving from Texas.


Long Road Back – This is the moment Alec Asher probably envisioned when he had Tommy John surgery at 14 years old. Asher, 23, is one of the players the Phillies acquired from Texas last month in the Cole Hamels trade. He will make his big league debut on Sunday afternoon against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park, the second pitcher acquired in the trade to debut this season for the Phillies. "You don't realize how tall these stadiums are until you really get out there," Asher said Saturday evening. "But it's awesome. I'm almost speechless." Asher went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Before the trade, he went 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 12 starts with Triple-A Round Rock. Long before that, he had ulnar collateral ligament surgery. Asher's father Bob Asher told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the family paid $22,000 to have orthopedist James Andrews perform the surgery. They paid their final bill within the last year. "Never a moment of regret," Asher's father told the Inquirer. Alec said he has never met another pitcher who had the surgery at a younger age than him, but he is sure that person exists. "It's definitely rare," he said. "You don't definitely see that, but I guess it's becoming more common." ”I had always said I want to pitch in the Major Leagues, I want to be a Major League Baseball player. I always had that aspiration as a kid. I wasn't going to give up until I couldn't anymore. … I knew I loved baseball and I knew I wanted to keep playing. That was the only option. It was a no brainer for me and my family. It ended up working out all right." The Giants selected Asher out of Lakeland Senior High School in Fla., in the 23rd round of the 2010 Draft. He instead attended Polk Community College in Winter Haven, Fla., and the Rangers selected him in the fourth round in the 2012 Draft. Three years later he is in the big leagues. "It's been a hectic month for sure," Asher said about the July 31 trade. "I finally felt like I'd been in a place for a month, finally got my stuff settled in and then I get this news so I'm like, alright, I've got to get everything packed up and move it all again. It's been for the better, that's for sure. It's hard to complain when this stuff's going on for you."

Sweeney Impressive So Far – The Phillies have their playing time priorities for the remainder of the season, and Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera are priorities at second base and center field, respectively. Where does that leave Darnell Sweeney? Sweeney, whom the Phillies acquired this month from the Dodgers in the Chase Utley trade, is a second baseman and center fielder. He figured to be the odd man out, although he is making a case for more playing time. He ripped a two-run home run to left-center field in the second inning of Saturday night's 4-3 victory over the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. "There's a good chance of that for right now," said Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, when asked about more playing time for Sweeney. "Cesar is our second baseman, but he's in a funk right now and he needs to battle his way out of it. He's trying. Maybe a day off might help him. I might get Sweeney in there tomorrow." Hernandez is hitting .088 (3-for-34) in his last eight games, so a break might serve him well. But Sweeney seems unconcerned about his playing time at the moment. After all, he was in Triple-A before the trade. Any playing time in the big leagues figures to be pretty good right now. "I'm just excited to have this opportunity to be up here," he said. "Whenever my name is called I'll put my best foot forward, and whatever happens is going to happen. I'm just trying to play my game. I can't do too much." Sweeney has homered twice in 13 at-bats with the Phillies. He has reached base safely eight times in 18 plate appearances. Not bad. "When you watch this guy take batting practice, the ball doesn't really jump off his bat," Mackanin said. "I think he works on mechanics more than anything from either side of the plate. But he sure hit that ball in Miami [on Aug. 22] a long way, and today he [went] opposite field. He's got pop in his bat. We'll get more looks at him." The more Sweeney plays at home the more Phillies fans will hear some little old school rap during his at-bats. He has Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" as his at-bat music. "I like to stick with the old school," Sweeney said with a smile. "It's been working for me for the past couple of years." After another homer Saturday, he should stick with it.

Howard Succeeding Against Righties – And then there were two. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said that earlier this month, when the Phillies traded Chase Utley to the Dodgers. It left Howard and Carlos Ruiz as the only two remaining members of the 2008 World Series championship team. But as the Phillies have transitioned into a younger team, Howard has quietly put up some good numbers for almost two months. After Saturday night's 4-3 win against the Padres, he is now hitting .294 (42-for-143) with nine doubles, eight home runs, 34 RBIs in 40 games since July 5. Is that a matter of Howard maybe being a streaky hitter? Or could it be something else? "Howie will probably disagree with me," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said, "but I think it's because he's not facing as many left-handed pitchers. I think he feels more comfortable. I think if you can take that out of the equation then you don't have to worry about it." Howard has started against just two left-handers since July 5. He is hitting .273 with an .839 OPS against right-handers this season, but .138 with a .443 OPS against left-handers. Howard's OPS against right-handers ranks 42nd out of 156 qualified hitters in baseball this season, which makes him a pretty good threat. One would think a contender in need of a left-handed bat would be interested in him, if the Phillies agreed to pay the vast majority of the remaining $35 million-plus on his contract ($25 million in salary next season, plus a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option). But the Phillies have received little to no interest. "If you take that .138 out of your batting average you're going to be up to .270 where you belong and you're more confident," Mackanin said he told Howard. "And then the occasional lefty you face you're going to have that confidence and not worry about what he's going to throw me this time. Just go up there feeling confident. "I know for a fact because I didn't have that confidence very often in my career, but when you go up there and you know you're going to get a hit, it makes all of the difference in the world."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 52-78. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this could still end up being the worst team in franchise history… at least that is something to hope for this year! All time, the Phillies are 55-61-0 on this day.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Nola Snaps Losing Streak For Phillies

GAME RECAP: Phillies Dominate Padres 7-1

Phillies rookie Aaron Nola looks like the real deal. He allowed two hits, one run, two walks and struck out six in seven innings on Friday night in a 7-1 victory over the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies' first-round pick in the 2014 MLB Draft improved to 5-1 with a 3.26 ERA in eight big league starts. "I'll take five pitchers just like him," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. The Phillies scored a pair of runs in the fourth inning, thanks to a hit batter and a wild pitch. The Padres scored their only run in the top of the fourth, but even when Nola left the game they could not get anything going against the Phillies' bullpen. "Seven innings, we're a run back so credit to the Phillies," Padres manager Pat Murphy said. "They have our number right now. We have a chance to win the series and that's what we intend to do. We had a blip there in the eighth, but we'll be ready tomorrow."

  • Nola continues to live up to the hype, pitching well in seven innings against the Padres. This start followed eight scoreless innings on Sunday against the Marlins at Marlins Park. "I feel a little bit more comfortable now," Nola said. "I know I can pitch here. But my main goal is to pitch to win and to try and keep the guys in the best position every single time I go out."
  • Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp provided plenty of insurance when he hit a three-run home run to left field in a five-run eighth inning. Rupp is hitting .333 (20-for-60) with three doubles, six homers and 17 RBIs and a 1.080 OPS in 17 games from July 26 through Friday. "I guess it's when Aaron pitches, apparently," Rupp said. "I am just getting good pitches to hit, being aggressive when the ball is in the zone and good things are happening."
  • "When they gave the ball in the eighth, I thought they were joking at first. Rod [Nichols] told me I was in the game, I'm like, 'OK, sure.' He's like, 'No, you're in the game.' I was like, 'Oh, boy.'" -- Phillies right-hander Jerome Williams, who just moved from the rotation to the bullpen. He pitched the final two innings to earn the second save of his career.
  • Phillies rookie Aaron Altherr tripled to right field in the eighth inning to score a run to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead. It was the seventh hit of Altherr's career, and his seventh extra-base hit (two homers, four doubles and a triple). He is the only Phillies rookie since 1900 to begin his career with seven extra-base hits. He also is the first rookie in the big leagues to begin his career with seven extra-base hits since Carlos Gonzalez did it in 2008 as a member of the Oakland A's.
  • Jeff Francoeur's pinch-hit double scored a run in the eighth inning. He leads baseball with 11 pinch-hit RBIs. He is hitting .478 (11-for-23) with three doubles, one home run and 11 RBIs as a pinch-hitter.
Phillies rookie left-hander Adam Morgan takes the mound at 7:05 p.m. ET on Saturday and hopes to rebound from a rough start earlier this week against the Mets. He allowed seven hits, five runs and four home runs in just 3 2/3 innings in a 16-7 loss. Padres rookie Colin Rea will be making his fourth career start at 4:05 p.m. PT on Saturday and will look to last longer than his last outing in which he allowed four earned runs in as many innings of work. It will also mark his first start away from Petco Park.


Nola Making His Mark – The Phillies entered Friday night's series opener against the Padres on pace for 99 losses. But that does not mean they are not worth watching the rest of the season. In fact, they should be quite interesting to follow because four out of every five games (or four out of every six, if they employ a six-man rotation once rosters expand on Tuesday) the Phillies will have a rookie pitcher on the mound. Aaron Nola is the most promising of a foursome that includes Adam Morgan, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher. Nola allowed two hits, one run, two walks and struck out six in seven innings Friday in a 7-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park. He has allowed one run in 15 innings in his last two starts. "I'll take five pitchers just like him," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. Nola threw just 86 pitches, but was pulled as the Phillies continue to monitor his workload. Nola has thrown 159 innings this season, including innings with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies have said they want him to finish the season around 185. "He's a young guy, first year in the Major Leagues," Mackanin explained. "In his last two innings he could have gone further. But we don't want anything to happen. We just want to make sure he comes out on a positive note. We have to do that this year." Nola did not allow a hit until Justin Upton hit a solo home run to left-center field with one out in the fourth inning. He retired 11 of the final 13 batters he faced. Nola improved to 5-1 with a 3.26 ERA in eight big league starts. "I feel a little bit more comfortable now," Nola said. "I know I can pitch here. But my main goal is to pitch to win and to try and keep the guys in the best position every single time I go out." Scouts and others tried to lower expectations for Nola upon his arrival July 21. They said he projected as a No. 3 starter, despite the fact the Phillies selected him in the first round of the 2014 MLB Draft. But Nola has looked better than that. "The guy throws strikes down in the zone," Mackanin said. "His breaking ball has improved since he's been here. He's got movement, deception and a very good presence on the mound. He's fun to watch pitch. He's been doing a great job for us."

Making An Impression – One of these days Aaron Altherr is going to hit a blooper, a chopper or a broken-bat bleeder. One of these days he is going to get that first big league single. But until then Altherr will keep stockpiling extra-base hits like Jordan Speith stockpiles birdies. Altherr tripled to right field in the eighth inning of Friday night's 7-1 victory over the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. He is the first Phillies rookie to begin his career with seven extra-base hits (two homers, four doubles and a triple). He is the first big league rookie to begin his career with seven extra-base hits since Carlos Gonzalez did it in 2008 as a member of the Oakland A's. "I'm just trying to find a way to get the barrel on the ball and have good things happen," Altherr said. "I'm just fortunate they've all gone for extra-base hits so far." Does he even recall the last time he singled? "I don't even remember to be honest with you," he said with a smile. It happened Aug. 16, when he played his last game with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He singled twice against Pawtucket. Of course, the singles will come. And who wouldn't take doubles, triples and home runs? But Altherr certainly has been fun to watch since his arrival Aug. 18. Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said this week that Altherr will start to see more playing time the rest of the season, and why not? "I'm looking forward to that challenge," Altherr said. "I played every day in the Minor Leagues, so I'm ready for that. I'm just ready to be in there and show what I can do on a daily basis. It's awesome [here]. It's the big league life, you know? It's everything you've ever dreamed of. Hopefully I can stay here for a while and keep doing well."

Elvis Has Left The Building – The Phillies placed left-hander Elvis Araujo on the 15-day disabled list on Friday with a strained left groin. They recalled right-hander Nefi Ogando from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to take his place in the bullpen. Araujo is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 40 appearances this season. He has allowed 29 hits, 17 runs, 13 earned runs, 19 walks and has struck out 34 in 34 2/3 innings. Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin expects more bullpen reinforcements when rosters can expand on Tuesday. "We need to get through the next four days," Mackanin said. "Don't want to hurt anybody's arm." Phillies relievers entered Friday night's series opener against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park with 425 2/3 innings pitched this season. That is the third-highest workload in baseball. Only the D-backs (443 innings) and Rockies (427 innings) bullpens have thrown more. "Very worn out," Mackanin said about his bullpen. "We've had to use so many guys so often that we even tried to win that game last night by sending [closer Ken] Giles back out there for two innings. Fortunately he only threw 30 pitches in the two innings. He may be available tonight. It's good to have somebody else come up and keep those guys out of games."

Prospect Sidelined With Concussion – Double-A Reading outfielder Nick Williams has looked like the real deal since the Phillies acquired him from the Rangers in July in the Cole Hamels trade. But Williams, who posted a .902 OPS in 21 games since his arrival, suffered a concussion Wednesday when he collided with the Buffalo first baseman while running to first. The Phillies placed Williams on the seven-day disabled list Friday. "Nick's fine," Phillies player development director Joe Jordan said Friday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. "He had a headache after the game. It wasn't totally gone the following day. So just standard protocol anymore is seven days after a concussion DL. We don't expect it to be an issue. He didn't get hit in the head by a batted ball or pitched ball. He had a collision. We don't see it lingering at all. We're hopeful that when the seven days are up, he's ready to go. If it's seven to 10 days, we don't expect it to interfere with participating in the playoffs or anything like that. It's more precautionary than anything." The Phillies also acquired catcher Jorge Alfaro in the trade. He has been sidelined following left ankle surgery, but he began a rehab assignment Thursday with the GCL Phillies. "He caught three innings today and our guys were very impressed," Jordan said. "He's a terrific talent and we knew that going in. He threw a runner out in the first yesterday and I got some 'Wows' from the guys in Florida. The first impressions are very, very good. The way he's approached rehab we've been able to work him defensively extensively. His ankle is really close to 100 percent." The Phillies plan to send Alfaro to Instructional League to help him make up for lost time. He then will play Winter Ball in Venezuela. Williams is the No. 60 prospect in baseball, according to Alfaro is No. 64. Right-hander Jake Thompson, who the Phillies also acquired from Texas in the Hamels deal, is ranked No. 56. He is 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA in five starts with Double-A Reading. "I've been impressed with him," Jordan said. "He's obviously done very well. I think there's room for development and room for improvement. I believe he's a guy we can help. But I'm really excited about what he's done. He's been pretty good."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 51-78. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this could still end up being the worst team in franchise history… at least that is something to hope for this year! All time, the Phillies are 45-60-1 on this day.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Phillies Keep It Close But Can’t Score In Extra Innings

GAME RECAP: Mets Sweep Phillies 9-5

In protecting an NL East lead that has stretched to 6 1/2 games, their largest cushion in eight years, the new-look Mets are setting offensive records on a near-nightly basis. But it's one of the longest-tenured Mets, Daniel Murphy, who is playing a significant role in the transformation. Murphy hit a go-ahead two-run double Thursday and made a circus play on defense, leading the Mets to a 9-5, 13-inning win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. The Mets swept the four-game series in Philadelphia, set a franchise record with 73 runs in a seven-game span and have won seven in a row overall, grabbing their third winning streak of at least seven games this season. "It's not just getting the wins," third baseman David Wright said. "Obviously, that's the most important thing. But the way that we're winning, we're never out of a game." The two teams traded offensive bursts early, with the Phillies jumping out to a 5-0 lead off Jon Niese in the third inning and the Mets roaring back to tie things in the fifth. Both Niese and Phillies starter Aaron Harang lasted six innings, allowing five runs. No one scored again until the 13th, when Murphy doubled home Carlos Torres -- a relief pitcher who beat out an infield single to open the inning off Hector Neris -- and Curtis Granderson. That rally came three innings after Murphy closed the 10th with a highlight-reel play on a comebacker that deflected off Torres, who contributed 2 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the win. "The entire time, we've been battling no matter what," Torres said of the Mets' 8-1 road trip. "Today, these guys showed they're true pros. They just kept battling every at-bat. They played their positions hard. And the outcome is we won more games on this road trip than we lost."

  • Harang allowed five runs in six innings, giving him a 7.71 ERA (58 earned runs in 67 2/3 innings) in 12 starts since the end of May. He was just the latest Phillies starter to get hit hard by the Mets. Phillies starters posted a 7.29 ERA (17 earned runs in 21 innings) in the four-game series. They also allowed 27 hits and eight home runs. The Phillies have lost 12 of 13 games to the Mets this season, including the last nine in a row. "That tells the story," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said of Phillies pitchers posting a 7.88 ERA in the series. "We know what our issues are and we have to improve."
  • The Phillies scored five runs and had five hits through the game's first four innings, but managed just three hits the rest of the way.
  • "It stinks because of all the Mets fans coming in here and stuff. It stinks to get swept. It hurts a little bit. And the length of the games. Tonight going 4 [hours] ... whatever. Long enough, put it that way." – Francoeur.
  • Keep an eye on Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr. Interim manager Pete Mackanin said he plans to play the prospect more the final few weeks of the season. Altherr has started against left-handers since his recent promotion, but the Padres are throwing three righties this weekend. Expect Altherr to start at least one of those games, maybe more.
  • According to, Phillies rookie Odubel Herrera entered Thursday night's game against the Mets leading the team with a 2.4 WAR. The last Phillies rookie to lead the team in WAR was Scott Rolen (4.5 WAR) in 1997.
  • Padres right fielder Matt Kemp wasn't in the starting lineup on Thursday in Washington because of a sore left shoulder after he landed awkwardly during a diving attempt on Wednesday. The Padres wanted to get him a day off anyway. Chances are he's back in the lineup on Friday against the Phillies. Kemp entered Thursday second in the National League in RBIs (31) since the All-Star break.

Two hot pitchers will try to finish August on a high note when the Padres and Phillies open a three-game series on Friday at Citizens Bank Park. Aaron Nola, coming off eight shutout innings in a victory over the Marlins, gets the start for the Phils in the opener. He was tremendous against Miami, allowing three hits with two walks and six strikeouts. The Padres' Ian Kennedy has been plenty hot himself. He has a 2.19 ERA in August and a 2.27 ERA in seven starts since the All-Star break.


Araujo Goes Down – The Phillies are desperate for left-handed relievers, so they could not afford to lose Elvis Araujo to a strained left groin Thursday night. But the big left-hander tumbled to the mound following a pitch he threw to Yoenis Cespedes during the 11th inning in a 9-5 loss to the Mets in 13 frames at Citizens Bank Park. It was the fifth pitch of the night for Araujo, who has been a bright spot in the Phillies' bullpen this season. "I don't know how bad it is," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "It didn't look real good." Araujo is 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA in 40 appearances this season. He has allowed 29 hits, 17 runs, 13 earned runs, 19 walks and has struck out 34 in 34 2/3 innings. Araujo's injury leaves Adam Loewen as the only left-hander in the Phillies' bullpen. But Mackanin said the bullpen might have needed reinforcements anyway. He said they would talk about their options before they left the ballpark. "Our guys are overworked," Mackanin said. "They've been used so much. I don't know if we'll make any moves tonight, but possibly tomorrow." Phillies relievers entered the night third in baseball in innings pitched. Only the D-backs and Rockies have more innings from their bullpen.

Unable To Finish Them Off – Asked about the Phillies' week against the Mets, Jeff Francoeur just shook his head. The Mets beat the Phillies in 13 innings Thursday night at Citizens Bank Park, 9-5, to complete the four-game sweep. It was the first time the Mets had swept the Phillies in a four-game series in Philadelphia since Sept. 6-9, 2002. The Phillies have lost nine consecutive games to New York, which is their longest skid against the Mets since a 10-game losing streak from Sept. 19, 1971, to June 28, 1972. The Phillies also have lost 13 of their last 14 games to the Mets, and 23 of their last 28. "We were legitimately in some games," Francoeur said. "We just had a tough time keeping them off the scoreboard. Our pitching has done a great job in the second half. But the Mets are swinging the heck out of the bats. They're feeling confident and good, you know?" The Mets scored 40 runs and hit 13 home runs in the series. The Phillies scored 21 and hit six. "That tells the story," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "We know what our issues are and we have to improve." They must improve their pitching. Phillies starters had a 7.29 ERA in the series. They allowed 27 hits, 19 runs, 17 earned runs, six walks, eight home runs and struck out 14 in 21 innings. Phillies relievers posted an 8.53 ERA, allowing 28 hits, 21 runs, 18 earned runs, 11 walks, five home runs and striking out 16 in 19 innings. "We're a young team," Mackanin said. "Sure, we've got a lot of issues. We've got to improve. But we've got a good start. There are some good-looking players that are developing and showing signs of becoming pretty good players." So the Phillies will try to put this series behind them. Besides the home runs the Mets hit and the runs they scored, each game lasted at least 3 hours, 16 minutes. Thursday night's lasted 4 hours, 32 minutes. That made it a little more painful for Philadelphia. "It stinks because of all the Mets fans coming in here and stuff," Francoeur said. "It stinks to get swept. It hurts a little bit. And the length of the games. Tonight going 4 [hours] ... whatever. Long enough, put it that way."

Altherr To Get More Playing Time – Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin finds himself in a bit of a conundrum. How can he play everybody the Phillies want him to play before the end of the season? The Phillies have used most of the season to play outfielders Domonic Brown, Odubel Herrera and Cody Asche. But Mackanin said before Thursday night's series finale against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park that he plans to play outfielder Aaron Altherr more often the rest of the way. That creates a logjam in the outfield, which also includes Jeff Francoeur. It certainly seems to reduce future plate appearances for Asche and Brown. "I'm not eliminating them, but we want to see [Altherr]," Mackanin said of the Phillies' No. 24 prospect. "He had a heck of a good year in the Minor Leagues and we like what we see. Brown and Asche have had quite a few at-bats at this level. They've been given good opportunities and will continue to get opportunities, but we think Altherr deserves an opportunity as well." Asche opened the season as a third baseman before moving to left field to make room for Maikel Franco. But the Phillies have no plans to play Asche at third unless absolutely necessary, despite Franco being on the disabled list. "We don't want to screw him up," Mackanin said of Asche. "He's been showing some improvement in left field." There is a logjam in the infield, too. The Phillies still want to see Cesar Hernandez as much as possible. He can play third base, but his natural position is second. The Phillies prefer Hernandez at second because he is more comfortable there. But that reduces the playing time of the recently acquired Darnell Sweeney, whom they got from the Dodgers for Chase Utley. Sweeney is essentially a second baseman and center fielder, but Hernandez and Herrera occupy those two spots, respectively. "I'd like to see Sweeney more, but at this point, he's not one of the top priorities," Mackanin said. "I like the way he swings the bat. In order to get a proper look at the guy I'd have to play him another 15 games or so. I don't think I can do it. "This is a tough job, man."

The Future Behind The Plate – The Phillies think they have a bright future behind the plate. They acquired catcher Jorge Alfaro from the Rangers in July as part of the Cole Hamels trade. He is the No. 64 prospect in baseball and the club's No. 5 prospect, but the Phillies also have catcher Andrew Knapp, who is tearing up the Double-A Eastern League. The Phils' No. 18 prospect is hitting .378 with 19 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs, 51 RBIs and a 1.094 OPS in 205 plate appearances. Alfaro made his debut for the organization Thursday, when he played three innings for the GCL Phillies on a rehab assignment. He went 1-for-1 and was hit by a pitch twice. He also threw out a runner at second base. Alfaro had been on the disabled list since June 11 with a left ankle injury. But Alfaro and Knapp aren't expected to be on the 2016 Opening Day roster. Carlos Ruiz's contract runs through next season, when he will make $8.5 million. Cameron Rupp remains under team control. Ruiz and Rupp figure to be back behind the plate next year, although Triple-A catcher Gabriel Lino is highly regarded because of his defensive capabilities. He could be a September callup. But if it is Ruiz and Rupp at the beginning of next season, how could it play out? Ruiz has started 73 games this year, while Rupp has started 55. That number could be reversed in 2016. Ruiz, 36, entered Thursday night hitting .219 with 12 doubles, two homers, 20 RBIs and a .598 OPS in 284 plate appearances. It is 22 points lower than his career-low .620 OPS in 2008. Rupp has hit .333 with three doubles, five home runs, 13 RBIs and a 1.040 OPS in his past 16 games. He has a .715 OPS in 208 plate appearances overall. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, his OPS would rank 11th out of 25 catchers in baseball. "He has made great strides in his hitting approach and he's a solid catcher," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said about Rupp. "It looks like he's gained a lot of confidence, and I like seeing him in the lineup. "There's no reluctance from my side [to have Ruiz back up Rupp]. If that's what it's going to boil down to, that's what it's going to be. You know, times change. I'm not saying Chooch is at that stage of his career, but if we have somebody we think is a No. 1 and should catch more than he does, that's what we're going to do."

Bubble Wrap Is Also Being Considered – Commissioner Rob Manfred said discussions regarding extended safety netting at Major League ballparks are ongoing and that he hopes to make a recommendation to owners during quarterly meetings in Dallas in November. Manfred made his remarks before Thursday night's game at Citizens Bank Park, a 9-5 Mets win over the Phillies in 13 innings, as he completed his goal of visiting all 30 clubs after succeeding Bud Selig in January. "This is a topic that is of serious concern, not only to me but more importantly to all 30 owners," Manfred said. "We discussed it in August [at the Owners Meetings in Chicago]. We have a process ongoing where we are examining all of the relevant information. "So I think our goal to is to put the Commissioner's Office in a position where we can make a complete recommendation to ownership in November and give people an opportunity to be ready to make changes for next year if in fact we decide that changes are necessary. Our goal is to get the process complete in a way that would allow us, if we decide to make a change, that it would be deployed in April." MLB has studied where balls and bats most frequently go into the stands, solicited fan input and examined various sorts of netting. Because every park has a unique design, one-size-fits-all regulations aren't practical. "I suspect we would adopt industry guidelines," Manfred said. "But there is going to be some individual decision-making here because of the design of ballparks. They are so different. Frankly, when we started to look at it, you lose track of how different they really are. It's more of a challenge to devise meaningful guidelines for the industry because the ballparks are so different. So it's going to be a combination of the two." In the second inning on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, a woman was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis. She was sitting just to the side of the net behind home plate. She got up and walked away on her own. The team told The Associated Press she was evaluated at the ballpark and did not need to go to the hospital. Before Manfred's news conference, he met with members of the Phillies' front office. Afterward Manfred, who had headed up labor negotiations as part of his duties before becoming Commissioner, met with the Phillies players. "It's been really interesting to have a chance to talk to the players outside of the collective bargaining process," he said. "Over the years, that's really where I've had the most exchange. It's been a really positive dialogue with the players. I think the dialogue has been helpful to the game, particularly on the issue of pace of game. I just think it's healthy to have an exchange with all of the players outside of the more formal context of trying to make an agreement." He gave an example: On the day he visited the Mariners, MLB had just started to phase in warning letters for players who may have taken a little too much time getting ready to hit or deliver a pitch. "One of the players said to me, 'We played a 2:40 game yesterday and we came in today and four guys had warning letters.' We went back after that and we altered the system," Manfred said. "We don't issue warnings if we have a game that's less than 2:40. And I think it's that kind of input that I find to be the most important. They're asking you something to get you thinking of whether you're in the right place." Manfred also fielded questions about smokeless tobacco and pitchers using substances to get a better grip on the ball. The former came about in response to the mayor of San Francisco signing an ordinance in May that bans chewing tobacco from all its fields, including AT&T Park. Manfred pointed out that smokeless tobacco has been banned in the Minor Leagues for years and added that he expects the issue to be part of the negotiations for the new Basic Agreement. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires after next season. "There are twin concerns here," he said. "There's the health of our players, but there's also the example it sets for young people. This effort with local ordinances, I think, has put a spotlight on the issue." Television cameras appeared to show a substance on the glove of Astros pitcher Mike Fiers while he was no-hitting the Dodgers last Friday. It's common for pitchers to use something to improve their grip; it's technically illegal. But balls that are slippery could also be a health hazard for hitters. Manfred said he wouldn't comment directly on the Houston situation, but added: "We have enough issues with respect to gripping the ball that we are looking at the issue of what does the ball feel like? How tacky? Why are people interested in making it more tacky? That's just part of our normal ongoing review of how the game is played and is an issue we'll have some conversation about in the offseason."

Catching Up With Charlie Hayes – Charlie Hayes was 24 years old when he was traded from the Giants to the Phillies. It was June 18, 1989. Future Hall of Fame third baseman Mike Schmidt had retired three weeks earlier. All Hayes was being asked to do was replace the best player in franchise history. Hayes had his moments in red pinstripes. In the end, though, he didn't make the impact the Phillies front office might have hoped when they acquired him, along with Terry Mulholland and Dennis Cook, for closer Steve Bedrosian. Two-and-a-half years later, he was sent to the Yankees and went on to have 14-year career that also included stops with the Rockies, Pirates, Brewers and Astros. The Phillies, however, had a profound impact on Hayes. In ways that make sense. And in mysterious ways that never could have been foreseen. Most notably, without that simple baseball trade, it's entirely possible his youngest son, infielder Ke'Bryan Hayes, wouldn't have been selected by the Pirates with the 32nd overall pick in the MLB Draft in June. Because, who knows? Without that transaction, Hayes wouldn't have become close friends with Ron Jones, who was then one of the Phillies' top hitting prospects. Jones seemed destined for a long and successful career. His .371 batting average for Class A Clearwater in 1986 remains a franchise record. He received the Paul Owens Award that year, given annually to the best player in the farm system. Jones' future looked bright until he tore a ligament in his right knee in '89, and then a ligament in his left knee a year later. He ended up playing just 97 games in the big leagues. Had Jones' career not been sabotaged by two serious knee injuries, he wouldn't have approached Hayes in 2005 about opening the Big League Baseball Academy in Tomball, Texas. Had Hayes not cared so much about his friend, he would not have overcome his initial reluctance to get involved. Hayes almost certainly would have shuttered the enterprise when Jones tragically suffered a fatal heart attack a year later, just days short of his 42nd birthday. And had all those invisible cosmic tumblers not fallen into place, well, there's no telling how far the 18-year-old Ke'Bryan, who honed his skills at the academy, might have progressed. "I guess the great thing about the whole thing is my kid was a part of it," Hayes said. "Out of my three boys, he's probably the one that was the least athletic. But what he did that the other ones didn't do was, he was a worker. He always paid attention to detail. He really loves baseball. So I'm so excited for him, and to see what the next chapter of his life brings to him." Charles Jr., 31, is an underwater welder. Tyree, 27, was a right-handed pitcher drafted in the eighth round by the Rays in 2006 whose big league dreams were short-circuited by a torn right labrum. The last day Hayes and Jones were together was a Sunday. Ron worked with the high school group, Charlie with the younger players. Normally, they'd get together at the end of the day. This time, Jones declined. "He said, 'Man, I don't feel good. I'm tired. I'm just going to go home,'" Hayes said. The next day, Ron didn't come to the academy. But it wasn't uncommon for him to take Mondays off. On Tuesday, he was missing again. This seemed especially unusual since Tyree was drafted by the Rays that day. Charlie expected at least a congratulatory call. Nothing. "That was very rare," he noted. On Wednesday, Ron was once more a no-show. Concern was escalating. He had been collecting money for one of the teams to go to a tournament in Atlanta. "He was living in a real tough part of Houston. So we thought maybe something had happened that way," Charlie said. On Thursday, Charlie and his wife, Gelinda, drove to Jones' apartment to see what was going on. "I talked to the lady who was the manager of the complex where he lived. And I said, 'Hey, my name is Charlie. I'm looking for Ron. I haven't seen him in four or five days.' And she said, 'Oh, you're Charlie. Ron always talks so nice about you. I'll go check his apartment,'" Jones said. "Well, she went around the corner and came back running. He had passed away. Looked like he was going to the shower. He had a massive heat stroke, heart attack. It's just sad. Man, my best friend in the world." Hayes couldn't bring himself to go back to the academy for eight months. He didn't tell Ke'Bryan what had happened right away. "Because him and Ron, they were just inseparable," said Hayes, who wanted to close the facility down. "My wife convinced me I needed to keep it open on [Jones'] behalf," the 50-year-old Hayes said. "When Ron came to me and said we should start a baseball academy, I wasn't too keen on the idea -- because of the simple fact that I wanted to be around the house a lot more. But once we got that thing rolling, Ron was so dedicated to that place. He did so many hours there. "I think I would have been out of baseball a long time ago if it wasn't for him. But just seeing the way he went about his job every day at the academy made me want to be out there even more." Hayes eventually returned. Now he spends up to 200 hours a month working with kids from ages 9-18. Former Major Leaguers Mike Jackson and Jesse Barfield have helped with the instruction. And nobody benefited more than Ke'Bryan, a payoff nobody could have imagined a quarter century earlier, when baseball brought Hayes and Jones together. Hayes had some memorable moments with the Phillies. Notably, he snagged the line drive off the bat of pinch-hitter Gary Carter for the final out of Mulholland's 1990 no-hitter. "I think about that a lot. And a lot of people talk to me about that. But I was also the guy who messed up the perfect game. I think about that, too," Hayes said, referring to a throwing error that allowed Rick Parker to reach base leading off the seventh. That was Hayes' first full season in the big leagues, and he led all third basemen in assists and tied for first in total chances. In both 1989 and '90, he homered in three straight games. In his first season he became just the 34th player to hit a ball into the upper deck at Veterans Stadium. The following year, Hayes hit the longest homer of the season at Veterans Stadium, an estimated 426 feet off Ron Darling. Hayes even came back to Philadelphia in 1995. When it was all over, he had played more games (519) for the Phillies than any other team, batting .256 with 41 homers, 238 RBI and a .672 OPS. "I loved Philly," Hayes said. "It was a tough situation for me, being the guy who was kind of the heir apparent to Mike Schmidt. But one thing that Philadelphia taught me was about being tough, being determined -- basically a blue-collar work ethic. I instill those things in all my kids. Always told them there were never any excuses. You just pick yourself up and try to get better every day. "I'm sure there were probably some things I could have done better: dealing with the media, accepting failure. But there's no doubt that Philadelphia made me the player I was."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 50-78. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this could still end up being the worst team in franchise history… at least that is something to hope for this year! All time, the Phillies are 46-67-0 on this day.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Phillies Offense Can’t Back Solid Outing

GAME RECAP: Mets Beat Phillies 9-4

For the third time this season, the Mets own a winning streak of at least half a dozen games. They grabbed their sixth straight win with a 9-4 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, extending their National League East lead over the Nationals to 6 1/2 games -- their largest since leading the Phillies by seven games with 17 to go in 2007 -- and putting themselves on pace for exactly 90 wins. "You've got to win games you're supposed to win, there's no question about it," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Right now, we'll take it." A continued offensive renaissance resulted in three first-inning runs off Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff and plenty of late insurance. Michael Cuddyer homered and drove in three runs, Michael Conforto delivered another multihit game and the Mets plated six-plus runs for the fifth time in their last six games, giving Bartolo Colon plenty of cushion throughout his seven scoreless innings. "I'm not happy about the loss," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "You never want to lose games. The Mets have had our number all year. We want to beat them, especially with a game tomorrow. We need to salvage something out of this series." The Mets wound up cashing in much of their insurance when the Phillies rallied for four runs off Eric O'Flaherty and Carlos Torres in the eighth, highlighted by Cameron Rupp's two-run double. But Tyler Clippard nailed down the final out of the eighth and the Mets cruised from there. The Phillies have lost eight consecutive games to the Mets and 11 of 12 this season.

  • The righty allowed three runs, two earned, in the first inning but quickly recovered and allowed just four runs over six innings. In a stretch that began with the final two outs of the first, the rookie retired 16 straight Mets hitter, five of which were strikeouts, before a Conforto double and a Juan Uribe single gave the Mets their fourth run of the night in the sixth. Eickhoff, who threw six scoreless innings in his Major League debut on Friday, fell to 1-1. "I thought [Eickhoff] did an outstanding job after that first inning," Mackanin said. "He basically had a quality start tonight. He turned himself around and pitched very well through the sixth inning."
  • The Phillies' offense lay dormant for most of the night against Colon. In the eighth, against the Mets' bullpen, the Phillies showed some signs of life as they manufactured four runs on four hits, a walk and an error. Clippard ended the threat when he got Darnell Sweeney to strike out swinging with two on. "We fought back," Mackanin said. "We were kind of listless the whole game. Mainly because Colon really knows how to pitch. That's the first time I've really seen him use more than a fastball. He generally cuts you up with a fastball, but tonight he used all of his pitches."
  • The Phillies are confident that rookie third baseman Maikel Franco will return to the lineup before the end of the season. Franco, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a broken left wrist, received encouraging news on Tuesday and looks to be two weeks away from possibly hitting off a tee.
  • The Mets have won 11 of 12 against the Phillies this year, including a current eight-game winning streak. The Mets have been particularly strong at Citizens Bank Park, where they are 26-8 since 2012.
  • David Wright will return to the lineup after getting Wednesday night off following two starts upon his return from the 60-day DL on Monday. Wright went 0-for-4 with a walk on Tuesday after he hit a home run in his first at-bat on Monday.

The Mets will look to continue their strong play away from Citi Field and complete a sweep of the Phillies behind Jon Niese in the final game of a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. New York has found an offensive rhythm recently and has tied a club record for any month with 40 homers in August. The Mets have won six games in a row -- all on the road -- and own a 6 1/2-game lead on the second-place Nationals in the National League East. Niese, who has a quality start in 12 of his last 14 games, is 10-6 lifetime against the Phillies with a 2.77 ERA. This year he is 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA against Philly while allowing just one earned run in 13 1/3 innings. He is 5-0 in his last seven starts against the NL East rivals. The Phillies will go with Aaron Harang, who went seven innings and allowed just two runs at Miami in his last start. Harang had struggled in his three previous starts, allowing 18 runs in just 15 innings of work in three consecutive losses.


Settling Down – With a relatively young roster, the Phillies will be using the final six weeks of the season to gauge just what type of team they can field in 2016 and beyond. More to the point, the last month of evaluations won't be just about successes and failures. Instead, for a team that is clearly in a rebuilding phase, the biggest concern will be how this collection of players handles both scenarios. On Wednesday night, right-hander Jerad Eickhoff made just his second Major League start and first at Citizens Bank Park in a 9-4 loss to the National League East-leading Mets. The Mets entered the game as one of the hottest hitting teams in baseball in August and looked to bring the rookie crashing down to earth after he went six scoreless innings in his debut against the Marlins just five days ago. "I think he was a little nervous [making his first start at home]," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "For sure, I was getting nervous [after Eickhoff's pitch count hit 40 in the first inning]. We have a strapped bullpen. We can't keep going to the bullpen every night as much as we do. Obviously, he wasn't the guy in the first inning we saw in Miami. After that, he was." "I just needed to get settled," said Eickhoff, the team's No. 15 prospect. "The first start at home, there are some jitters. I think that's what I was getting rid of in that first inning. I knew my pitch count was up there so I just wanted to attack the zone, pitch to contact." For Eickhoff and the Phillies, the game started ominously when center fielder Odubel Herrera dropped a fly ball deep at the warning track in left-center. The Mets scored three runs in the frame on their way to their eighth straight win over the Phillies, but Eickhoff's recovery spoke louder than the final result. While it's hard to say one dropped ball changed the entire game, it certainly didn't help. Especially after Eickhoff used an economical 57 pitches over his final five innings. "Those things make a difference," Mackanin said of the dropped ball. "We talk about the fact that the only ball hit hard that inning was the [Michael Cuddyer double that brought home the second run]. The fly to center was well hit, but it should have been caught. "But the more important thing is he came out of it. As poorly as he located his pitches in that first inning, he located extremely well the rest of the game." Eickhoff went six innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out six. After the shaky first, he recorded 16 straight outs and kept the Mets guessing until a double by Michael Conforto in the sixth and a single by Juan Uribe scored the fourth run. "After the first, I was able to get my slider over," said Eickhoff, who became the first Phillies rookie to record 16 straight outs since Mike Grace recorded 17 straight on May 12, 1996, against the Braves. "I was able to locate it off the plate when I needed to and then the occasional changeup." "He's a pretty solid guy," Mackanin said. "He really doesn't need reinforcement. He's got a lot of confidence."

Reacting To A Slump – Over the last month, the Phillies have made it clear that they are in full rebuilding mode. Mired in last place since the opening week of the season, the Phillies have traded several major components to one of the franchises most successful periods, including a World Series title in 2008. That has afforded playing time for young players such as Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera, both of whom were in the lineup on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park against the Mets. Cesar Hernandez has also seen a lot of playing time, but he started the night on the bench after a five-game slump that saw him hit .048 (1-for-21). Manager Pete Mackanin isn't concerned about the 25-year-old, and in fact, saw this as a chance to get a better feel for the young infielder's mental makeup. "We have to find out how he's going to react to [the recent slump]," Mackanin said. "We have to see if he's going to rebound. I think he's going to be fine. "When you think about it, he didn't play a lot early in the year. He has 300 and some at-bats. He plays in the winter, too, so physically he's fine and is used to it. You get tired mentally more than physically, but he's going to come out of it." Hernandez has played in a career-high 110 games so far this season and has hit .266 with 50 runs scored and 29 RBIs. Much of April saw him used as a late-game replacement, but with the injuries and subsequent trade of Chase Utley to the Dodgers, he started 32 of 33 games since the All-Star break until Wednesday night. "You see it all the time," Mackanin said. "[Galvis] hit [.355] in April and then it came down to .250. But he worked through it and is hitting [.273] for the year. You have to find a way to work through it."

Bowa Cites Safety – Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa has been around the game long enough to know he's going to hear from Major League Baseball over the next few days. "It will say, 'Dear Larry, I miss you,'" a clearly sarcastic Bowa said on Wednesday afternoon. "[Chief baseball officer Joe Torre's] going to say, 'After further review,' and then I'm going to let him know what the situation was." In Bowa and veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur's mind, the quick pitch thrown by Mets reliever Hansel Robles in the seventh inning of the Phillies' 6-5 loss to New York on Tuesday endangered hitter Darin Ruf. Ruf had stepped into the box with his head down, and as home-plate umpire Dan Bellino signaled no pitch, it still came to the plate. "That's exactly what went down," said Bowa, who was ejected from the game and also had words with Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy. "It had nothing to do with us getting [beaten badly] for two nights. You're going to hurt somebody. That's all it is. "And the umpire said, 'I called no pitch.' It doesn't matter. The pitch was on the way. So if Ruf looks up. Yeah, he threw a strike. But they make mistakes throwing the baseball. They throw one up and in, and the guy turns around, the ball [could be] 10 inches from his face. There's no reason for that." On the surface, the ejection didn't have anything to do with the recent struggles the Phillies have had against the Mets, against whom they are just 1-10 this year. At the same time, it certainly didn't help and has to weigh heavily on a relatively young team that is not only playing the role of spoiler but fighting for jobs next year and beyond. "This is the big leagues ... we're playing for jobs, positions," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We got beat up the last couple of days. We want to win. Nobody likes it. I don't expect the players to be in a good mood. We want to win and there is a lot of emotion. We've seen it over the years, it just comes out. "The only grudge I have against [the Mets] is we want to beat them a few times. That's the bottom line. You want to win every night. It's more fun when you win."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 50-77. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this could still end up being the worst team in franchise history… at least that is something to hope for this year! All time, the Phillies are 48-51-1 on this day.