Sunday, August 9, 2015

Phillies Climb Out Of Last Place With Another Win

GAME RECAP: Phillies Beat Padres 4-2

The Phillies have a chance to sweep, after defeating the Padres, 4-2, Saturday night at Petco Park. Adam Morgan earned his third win of the season, going six innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on six hits, with one walk and four strikeouts. The Phillies got on the board early, with Chase Utley and Odubel Herrera scoring in the first inning. Herrera knocked in the Phillies' third run with a ground-ball single to right field. The Phillies are 15-5 since the All-Star break and no longer have MLB's worst record, after their victory and a Marlins loss. "Maybe we want to end up in last place to get that Draft pick. We screwed it up," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin joked. "It's just fun to watch these guys. They're all having a good time, and they're all aggressive. They're all pulling for each other. It's contagious." Tyson Ross is 8-9 on the season. He pitched seven innings, giving up three runs on five hits, while walking one and striking out eight. The Padres have lost five straight.

  • Herrera had two hits, two RBIs, two stolen bases, one outfield assist and made a couple of heads-up baserunning plays, helping him score a run -- all in the first four innings. The Phillies' Rule 5 Draft pick has been on fire, hitting .350 (48-for-137) with 10 doubles, one triple, four home runs, 16 RBIs and a .901 OPS in 45 games since June 5. "He plays like his hair is on fire," Mackanin said. "He's getting more aware. He's still going to make some aggressive mistakes, but boy, he's fun to watch play."
  • Morgan had been inconsistent in his first seven starts this season, but he retired the first nine batters Saturday before allowing his only earned run in the fifth. It was the fourth time this season Morgan pitched six or more innings, and the fifth time he allowed two or fewer runs. "The second time through the lineup I tried to be too fine," Morgan said. "I'm excited for these next five days to work on that."
  • "The first half was subpar to put it lightly. I still love playing the game, so as far as an edge I always feel like I have a chip on my shoulder." -- Utley, who went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored in his second game since returning from the disabled list after hitting .179 in his first 65 games.

After playing second base and hitting leadoff Friday and Saturday, Utley is expected to be on the bench in Sunday's series finale against the Padres at Petco Park at 4:10 p.m. ET. Mackanin is trying to find ways to play both Utley and Hernandez, with the front office hoping they can trade Utley to a contender before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline. Jerome Williams gets the start for the Phillies. Andrew Cashner (4-11, 4.08 ERA) will take the mound for the Padres in the finale of a three-game series. Cashner will start against the Phillies for the third time in his career. He is 2-0 with a 1.08 ERA in his previous two starts against Philadelphia.


Return To Form? – Chase Utley said he has played with an edge forever, so he does not need any more motivation to play baseball. But one still wonders if this situation is different. Utley went 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored in Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Padres at Petco Park. He is 3-for-9 in two games since returning from the disabled list with a sprained right ankle, a good sign for Utley and the Phillies, who could try to trade him before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline. "The first half was subpar, to put it lightly," Utley said. "I still love playing the game, so as far as an edge, I always feel like I have a chip on my shoulder." Utley hit .179 with seven doubles, one triple, four home runs, 25 RBIs and a .532 OPS in 65 games through June 22, making him one of the least productive hitters in baseball and having some question how much longer he can play. But a strong showing this month could have him headed elsewhere. The Angels and Cubs have expressed interest in him. Of course, Utley has 10-and-5 rights and has indicated in the past he prefers to stay in Philadelphia. But he also left the door ajar in Spring Training when he said he would listen to what the Phillies had to say, especially if the team moved some of its veterans. The Phillies traded Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere and Jake Diekman last month. "Like I've said all along, I would be more than happy to listen to them," Utley said. "I do love Philadelphia. I've had a great time playing here, but out of respect for them, I would definitely listen to them." This is how the game goes. Players come, players go. Even iconic ones. In the meantime, Utley hopes to play much better than he played in the first half of the season. "I feel better than I have in a while," he said. Utley is expected to play about four times a week as interim manager Pete Mackanin still wants to play Cesar Hernandez, who has performed very well since Utley went on the DL. That could mean three games for Utley at second base and one at first base. "We're all on the same page," Utley said. "I think that's what he's up to -- and good," said Mackanin, asked if Utley might be motivated to prove he can still play at a high level. "Like I've said, everybody auditions every day. The old guys have to keep on auditioning to prove they belong and they can still play. And that's what he's doing. He's making a good showing."

Good Move – The Phillies considered Odubel Herrera more than just a Rule 5 Draft pick in December. They considered him a talented hitter with legitimate potential. "We feel like we're taking a shot on a prospect," Phillies pro scouting director Mike Ondo said at the Winter Meetings. Herrera looks like a pretty solid find for the Phillies. He did just about everything for the Phillies in Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Padres at Petco Park, going 2-for-4 with two RBIs, two stolen bases, one run scored and one outfield assist. "He plays like his hair is on fire," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. Herrera hit well at the beginning of the season, but by June 5 his batting average dropped to .243 and his OPS dropped to .624. He looked as if he might be a future fourth or fifth outfielder, and if he continued to struggle, a candidate to start 2016 in Triple-A. But Herrera has adjusted to big league pitching and has been thriving since. He is hitting .350 (48-for-137) with 10 doubles, one triple, four home runs, 16 RBIs and a .901 OPS in 45 games since June 5. "Every day that goes by I feel more confident," Herrera said through his translator, Phillies assistant coach Jorge Velandia. "I feel like I keep on learning what it is to be a big leaguer. I keep learning from all the different experiences." Herrera, who hit third for the first time this season, singled to center field in the first inning to score Chase Utley from second base and hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead. Herrera stole second and advanced to third when Maikel Franco grounded out to Padres shortstop Clint Barmes. Herrera waited until Barmes threw to first then bolted for third base. "The shortstop never took a peek at me, so I thought I had a good chance to make it to third," Herrera said. He scored on a wild pitch that bounced only a few feet from home plate to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. "Our whole bench was like, 'No! No!'" Mackanin said. "He beat it. He's getting more aware. He's still going to make some aggressive mistakes, but boy, he's fun to watch play." "The third baseman was playing the shift so I had a good lead," Herrera explained. "So I knew I could be aggressive with anything on the dirt." Herrera singled in the third to score Cesar Hernandez from second to make it 3-0. He stole second and in the fourth inning he threw out Derek Norris at third for a big out. It is hard to believe the Rangers did not protect Herrera for the Rule 5 Draft, but they did not because their system was stacked with prospects. "It gives me an edge," Herrera said about the Rangers letting him go. "I always believed I was going to play in the big leagues."

The Phillies season has taken an unexpected turn for the better as they have officially climbed out of the bottom of the NL East with a record of 44-67. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this could still end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 34-70-0 on this day.

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