Monday, August 24, 2015

Phillies Battery Leads Team In Shutout

GAME RECAP: Phillies Blank Marlins 2-0

Promising Philadelphia rookie Aaron Nola threw a career-high eight scoreless innings and catcher Cameron Rupp provided a solo home run as the Phillies beat the Marlins, 2-0, on Sunday at Marlins Park to take three of four games in the series -- their first series win at Marlins Park since May 20-22, 2013. With the victory, Philadelphia moves into a tie with Miami at 50-74 at the bottom of the National League East. The outing was the finest of Nola's young career. The Phillies' No. 2 ranked prospect, according to, struck out six, walked two and surrendered just three hits in his seventh career start. Nola (4-1, 3.59 ERA) outdueled Marlins rookie Adam Conley (1-1, 4.88 ERA), who worked a career-high six innings and allowed just one run on three hits and four walks. "I felt like I was getting ahead of guys and really pounding the strike zone and keeping the ball as low as possible to be a strike," Nola said. "I felt like I did that for the most part, and it led to ground balls and some pop flies." Conley's lone blemish came in the third inning, when he gave up an Aaron Altherr sacrifice fly. Rupp then added insurance in the seventh inning with his fifth homer of the season, which came off Marlins reliever Chris Narveson.

  • While Nola issued four walks in his last outing -- the most he has ever allowed in 29 Minor League and six big league starts -- he returned to form on Sunday by allowing just two, including one in his final frame. "Over the course of the entire game, it was exceptional command," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "Their guy pitched well too. He was pretty impressive -- I liked him. But Nola's our guy and I like him better." Said Miami manager Dan Jennings: "[Nola] has that sweeping breaking ball. He angles the ball, has life in the zone. He's got a good breaking ball that he commands. He commanded it all day."
  • Andres Blanco recorded his sixth hit of the series when he notched a double in the third inning that advanced Cesar Hernandez to third base. The two-bagger set up Altherr's sacrifice fly, which gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead.
  • Four of Rupp's five homers this season have come in 11 August appearances. Before Sunday's solo blast -- which traveled a projected 369 feet down the right-field line, according to Statcast™ -- the 26-year-old catcher also hit homers on Aug. 1, 7 and 12. Additionally, each August homer has occurred in a Nola start.
  • "It's been fun. I feel like there definitely is competition between us, but on the other side, we're still rooting for each other, trying to learn from each other." -- Nola, on the Phillies' young starting pitchers.
  • Since losing two consecutive games in early July, Morgan has gone 3-2 with a 3.76 ERA in seven starts, walking just nine batters and allowing four home runs in 40 2/3 innings. Left-handed hitters in particular have struggled against Morgan, hitting .209 off him with a .573 OPS.
  • Over the past three weeks, deGrom has turned the NL Cy Young Award race into just that -- a race. He is 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA through four August starts, while Los Angeles' Zack Greinke is 3-1 with a 3.12 mark for the month. Greinke's 1.67 ERA overall is still better than deGrom's 1.98, though the Mets right-hander has more strikeouts in fewer innings pitched. Then there is Clayton Kershaw, who has a league-leading 222 strikeouts to go along with a 2.29 ERA.
  • Wright will be in the lineup Monday at third base, but he won't be an everyday player upon his return. Manager Terry Collins said he plans to meet with Wright and his training staff daily in an effort to keep him as fresh and healthy as possible for the stretch run.
  • Wright hit .321 on an eight-game rehab assignment for Class A Advanced St. Lucie, though all nine of his hits were singles. There are few better places for his power to return than Citizens Bank Park, where the Mets' all-time extra-base hits leader owns a career .295/.352/.528 slash line.

The wait is over. The comeback is complete. More than four months after first landing on the disabled list, third baseman David Wright is due to rejoin the Mets for their series opener Monday in Philadelphia. Wright will join a Mets team markedly different than the one he left in April, when he initially hit the DL with a hamstring strain. As Wright later learned he was suffering from spinal stenosis, a career-threatening condition that required months of rest, treatment and rehab, the Mets transformed from early-season surprise contenders to prohibitive favorites in the National League East. The Phillies have also changed since the last time the Mets saw them in late May, dealing away Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon and Chase Utley, among others. They'll send left-hander Adam Morgan to the mound for his first career start against the Mets, who will counter with National League Cy Young Award candidate Jacob deGrom.


Best Of The Year – Aaron Nola's stellar outing of eight scoreless innings in Sunday's 2-0 Phillies win at Marlins Park supported the biggest lesson that the rookie has learned since his callup on July 21. "Just pound the strike zone," Nola said. "It's easy to say, but getting behind big league hitters, it's tough to come back. You have to make that perfect pitch. You have to try to make them hit a weak ball. But the defense is better here -- they've played really great behind me this whole year. "That's one thing I've learned. Once you start getting yourself in jams and walking guys like I did against Toronto, bad things can happen." Against the Blue Jays on Tuesday, Nola (4-1, 3.59 ERA) walked a career-high four batters in just five innings as he took a no-decision. However, it was a different story on Sunday, when the Phillies' No. 2 prospect, according to, threw 65 of his career-high 100 pitches for strikes. In going a career-high eight scoreless innings, Nola didn't allow a run for the first time in seven big league starts, while giving up the fewest number of hits (three) and tying a career high in strikeouts (six). "He just pitched super," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "His biggest strength is his ability to command his fastball. It's really a good trait he's got." At one point, the 22-year-old retired 12 of 13 Marlins hitters. "I felt like I was getting ahead of guys and really pounding the strike zone and keeping the ball as low as possible to be a strike," Nola said. "I felt like I did that for the most part, and it led to ground balls and some pop flies." In his final two innings, Nola struck out two in the seventh before fanning Casey McGehee to end the eighth. All three strikeouts came on another pitch he was able to command well -- his curveball. "I liked his breaking ball more than in the past," Mackanin said. "He can set that up. When you can command your fastball on both sides of the plate, the hitters are conscious of that." Nola said he was ready for the ninth, but Mackanin wanted to play it safe, considering the rookie's career-high pitch count. Still, if Nola continues to draw from his biggest lesson and pound the strike zone, Mackanin is certain of one thing. "Down the road, he's gonna get his complete-game shutouts," he said. "He just didn't need to get it today."

Battery Mate At The Plate – It's hard to blame Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp for wanting to see Aaron Nola on the mound more than every fifth day. For four straight Nola outings, Rupp has started and homered each time -- as was the case once again in Sunday's 2-0 win at Marlins Park. "I wish he would pitch every day then," Rupp joked. While Sunday's homer -- a seventh-inning solo shot to right field that stretched Philadelphia's lead to two runs -- was Rupp's fifth of the season, it was his fourth long ball in just 11 August appearances. Before Sunday, the 26-year-old catcher also homered on Aug. 1, 7 and 12. "He's been good," interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's a strong-armed catcher and he needs to show that he can hit enough. The home runs are good hits. I like those hits. He'll catch [Nola] next time out then." Rupp finished the contest 1-for-3 to boost his season average to .247 in 53 games and 179 at-bats. He's now batting .325 in the month of August (13-for-40). But Rupp affected Sunday's game with more than just his bat, as he also caught Derek Dietrich stealing second base in the first inning before throwing out Dee Gordon (41 steals) at second base in the sixth on a well-timed pitchout. For the season, Rupp has caught 13 of 36 potential basestealers. "It's huge -- that's a big change in the game," Rupp said. "It can shift either way, especially if you need some kind of momentum and you throw a big guy out at a critical point in the game. It can change the game." But while Rupp's 36 percent success rate on steal attempts is impressive, it's hard to top his home run rate while catching Nola. "Someone told me that last week," Nola said. "It's a pretty cool stat."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 50-74. 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 47-62-1 on this day.

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