Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Phillies Can’t Keep Up With Upgraded Blue Jays

GAME RECAP: Jays Jack Phils 8-5

The Blue Jays need to beat teams like the Phillies if they expect to win their first American League East title since 1993. They did just that Tuesday night in an 8-5 victory at Citizens Bank Park to stay one back of the Yankees, who beat the Twins, 8-4. Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson led the way, crushing a solo home run into the second deck in left field in the first inning and hitting a three-run shot to left-center field in the sixth to give the Blue Jays a two-run lead. His first homer was projected to travel 439 feet by Statcast™, with an exit velocity of 111.8 mph. "He's swinging at everything well, and he's giving good at-bats as well, which I think is a big deal," reliever Liam Hendriks said about Donaldson. "Swinging the bat well, coming out and not giving up 0-2 or anything like that. He keeps battling, and he's put a lot of good swings on some balls this year." Phillies right fielder Jeff Francoeur hit a solo homer in the second and Freddy Galvis tripled to score a run in the fourth, but the bullpen could not hold the lead as the Phillies have lost six of their past seven games. "There's a lot of guys in this lineup you don't want to have a hiccup against," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said about the Blue Jays' offense. "You make quality pitches you're going to get them out. If you don't, you're in trouble."

  • The Phillies might have lost their best bat for the rest of the season, when they placed rookie third baseman Maikel Franco on the disabled list with a broken left wrist. But they scored five runs Tuesday, one more than they scored over the weekend in a three-game series against the Brewers. "I'm pleased with the offense," Mackanin said. "Unfortunately, our pitching is not where we want it to be at this point."
  • Phillies rookie Aaron Nola allowed four hits, three runs, four walks and one homer, and he struck out five in five innings. He threw 94 pitches (53 strikes). It was the first time in 35 professional starts (29 in the Minors, six in the Majors) Nola walked four batters as he tried to be too perfect against a powerful lineup. He still left with a 5-3 lead, but Phillies relievers Elvis Araujo and Jeanmar Gomez allowed five runs in the sixth. "I should have just went straight at them and capitalized on it," Nola said.
  • Phillies third baseman Cesar Hernandez made two errors, a fielding error in the first and a throwing error in the eighth. Third base is not his natural position, but with Chase Utley still manning second base, Hernandez is forced to play third. "It's not easy going from one side of the infield to the other," Mackanin said. "We're just kind of in the situation where we're forced to do it. But he also got a couple hits."
  • "I wish we had him here. He's fun to watch hit." -- Mackanin, on Donaldson.
  • The Phillies could be without arguably their best bat for the remainder of the season. The team announced Tuesday that rookie third baseman Maikel Franco has been placed on the disabled list with a broken left wrist. Cesar Hernandez and Andres Blanco are expected to share time at third in Franco's place.
  • Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Chase Utley is unlikely to be traded before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline, although that may change. Utley has full no-trade rights.

The Blue Jays will try to keep pace with the Yankees in the American League East as they complete a short two-game series with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night. Toronto, after winning 13 of its past 15 games, will go with lefty Mark Buehrle, who is 6-2 against the Phillies with a 3.50 ERA in nine starts. The Blue Jays hope Josh Donaldson remains on his recent tear -- including two home runs on Tuesday night -- against Phillies starter Adam Morgan. Donaldson has reached base in 23 of 26 games since July 21. Morgan beat Toronto, 3-2, on July 28, when he allowed two runs on five hits in six innings at Rogers Centre.


Franco Lands On DL – Maikel Franco's wrist injury is much worse than originally thought. The Phillies placed him on the disabled list Tuesday with a broken left wrist, and it seems likely his promising rookie season has ended. "I don't think it's a future issue," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. "But we're going to be cautious with him. We have to be as cautious as we can. He's too important to us." Franco was hit on the wrist with a pitch by D-backs pitcher Jeremy Hellickson on Aug. 11 in Arizona. X-rays taken that night did not show the fracture, and the Phillies believed the injury to be nothing more than a bruise. But as Franco's condition did not improve in the following days, an MRI exam this week in Philadelphia showed what Amaro described as "a very small, non-displaced fracture of his ulnar styloid," which is a small bone on the outside of the wrist. Franco will be in a splint for the next two to three weeks. Amaro said Franco's recovery could be anywhere from 2-4 weeks, but the GM also acknowledged it could be longer. Combine the estimated recovery time with the fact there are slightly more than six weeks remaining in the season, and it seems the Phillies might simply have Franco focus on his health in the coming weeks and not rush toward a return. "It's a big blow," Amaro said. "He's having a heck of a year for us. He's been playing great, a pretty strong force in the middle of the lineup. You can't do anything about it. A guy got hit and you've got to deal with it." Franco had hit .277 (82-for-296) with 22 doubles, one triple, 13 home runs, 48 RBIs and an .830 OPS in 77 games since his promotion from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on May 15. If he had enough plate appearances to qualify, he would have the highest OPS among National League rookies. Cesar Hernandez and Andres Blanco are expected to handle the duties at third base the remainder of the season. Outfielder Aaron Altherr was recalled from Lehigh Valley to take Franco's spot on the roster. Altherr hit a combined .293 (127-for-433) with 32 doubles, five triples, 14 home runs, 67 RBIs and an .854 OPS in 111 games with Double-A Reading and Lehigh Valley. He can play all three outfield positions, so he should have no problem playing during the week. "He's going to get a chance to play," Amaro said. "It's time to find out a little bit more about Aaron."

Stepping Up – Life without Maikel Franco might not be easy for the Phillies. It showed over the weekend in Milwaukee, where the Phillies scored a combined four runs in three losses against the Brewers at Miller Park. Franco has not played since he got hit with a pitch on his left wrist Aug. 11, and he could miss the rest of the season after the Phillies revealed Tuesday the wrist is broken. "Well, there is no question we are going to miss his bat," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said before Tuesday night's 8-5 loss to the Blue Jays at Citizens Bank Park. "It's going to be tough missing that right-handed bat especially in the lineup. But we're going to do everything we can to get through it and just keep battling. There's nothing we can do about it." Franco posted a team-high .830 OPS before the injury. "I feel bad," Franco said. "But it's part of the game. I hope I can come back soon. We'll see what's going to happen." Franco's absence leaves rookie Odubel Herrera (.744 OPS) in the No. 3 spot. But the Phillies showed some life against the Blue Jays. They knocked Blue Jays knuckleballer R.A. Dickey from the game in the fifth inning. He allowed five runs in four-plus innings, which snapped a Blue Jays-record 20 consecutive games with a starter allowing three or fewer earned runs. The last time it happened was July 25, when Drew Hutchison allowed five earned runs in four innings at Seattle. Phillies right fielder Jeff Francoeur crushed a solo home run to center field in the second inning. Francoeur signed with the Phillies as a Minor League free agent in November, and he has 11 home runs and a .786 OPS, which leads the team among players with 125 or more at-bats this season. Cesar Hernandez, Cody Asche and Freddy Galvis each knocked in runs as the Phillies took a 5-3 lead in the fifth, but the bullpen blew it in the sixth. "I hope our guys take notice that they look for the fastball, and if they're looking fastball and you make a mistake with something soft and it's out over the plate, they don't take it," Mackanin said about the Blue Jays' high-powered lineup. "They do damage. They're just a dangerous offensive team." Can the Phillies be potent enough without Franco? "I'd like to think so," Mackanin said. "I think we can score enough, but it all boils down to pitching."

Revere Returns – Ben Revere sat in the visitors' dugout at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday afternoon and admitted he felt a little out of place. After two and a half seasons with the Phillies, Revere was traded to the Blue Jays prior to the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Entering Tuesday night's 8-5 victory, Revere was batting .216 (11-for-51) in 15 games since joining Toronto, and while he misses his former home, he understands the opportunity he's been given. "It's been a rough little ride for a few weeks," said Revere, who batted seventh on Tuesday night against the Phillies. "It's a new league and I'm learning all of the pitchers, and I'm working on making an adjustment. "But it's been great. [The Blue Jays] have welcomed me in and I'm the everyday left fielder. This is all about having fun and contributing to a team fighting for a playoff spot." A postseason spot certainly wasn't in the immediate future of the Phillies (46-72), who own the worst record in baseball. Even after a strong start to the second half, Revere knows that Toronto (65-54) has risen quickly in the American League and entered Tuesday just a game behind the Yankees in the AL East. "It's a good fit," Revere said. "It's kind of like Philadelphia in that it's a big city and we're playing in front of sellout crowds. When I first got there, we had a one o'clock game on a Wednesday that was rocking. I just want to help this club win. "They are going through some changes, and sure I miss the guys and I wanted to help them get back [to the playoffs]. It didn't work out, and now I want to help this team."

Cooling Down – Chase Utley was in the leadoff spot for the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park, and unless something changes, it sounds like he will be hitting atop the Phillies' lineup for the foreseeable future. "I don't think that Chase has that desire to leave, frankly," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Tuesday afternoon. "And the Phillies don't have the desire to move him out of here." But trade discussions can heat up quickly, especially with a change of heart or one phone call, so it would be foolish to say Utley absolutely will not be traded before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline. But sources have told that discussions have cooled since Friday, when the Angels and possibly other contenders thought they would strike a deal for Utley. Utley has complete no-trade rights, so if he does not want to leave, he has the right to veto any deal. But while Amaro publicly downplayed the Phillies' desire to move their iconic second baseman, they have been trying hard to trade him. In fact, they have received multiple offers for Utley, although Amaro would not acknowledge them. "That's something I'd really rather not discuss," Amaro said. Amaro said Utley has not told him that he wants to be traded. He even said it is likely Utley would not be traded. But Amaro said similar things in the past about Cole Hamels and Jonathan Papelbon, who were both dealt in July. Of course, the big difference is Hamels and Papelbon wanted to be traded. Utley might be content simply playing out his contract with the Phillies. One factor for Utley is playing time. He wants to play regularly because he plans to play next season, and some teams might not be able to provide that. And now that Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco is on the disabled list, Utley might play even more than he has since returning from the DL on Aug. 7. But if Utley is not traded this month, he almost is certainly playing his final few weeks with the Phillies. Utley has a $2 million buyout on an $11 million club option, but while Amaro said it is a "possibility" they could pick up Utley's option, it would be very surprising if they did. The Phillies know it is time to move on from 2008. "The rebuild isn't over," Amaro said. "We still have a lot of work to do, but we're making some progress and we're continuing to look for ways to progress and move forward with younger players." So it could be seen as a lost opportunity for the Phillies' rebuilding efforts if they have to watch Utley leave at the end of the season with no compensation, as opposed to a prospect they might receive in a trade. "I don't think it's a lost opportunity, necessarily," Amaro said. "We have to assess a lot of different things about him being here. There are a lot of positives to still have Chase Utley in our uniform. Happy to have him continue to do what he does for the fans, for our team and for the young players who are watching him. He goes about his business exactly how we want our players to go about their business. So I don't think there's anything bad about having him here."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 46-73. 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 53-47-2 on this day.

No comments:

Post a Comment