Monday, August 3, 2015

Phillies Fall In Finale But Still Take Series Against Atlanta

GAME RECAP: Braves Beat Phillies 6-2

Jace Peterson's three-run home run in the fifth inning gave the Braves the lead and they never looked back in Sunday's 6-2 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park, preventing the sweep and ending Atlanta's six-game losing streak. Peterson's home run came two at-bats after Chris Johnson tied the score, 1-1, with a single that scored Cameron Maybin. The four runs in the fifth inning provided enough cushion for starting pitcher Julio Teheran to silence the hot offense of the Phillies. Teheran allowed two runs in seven innings, striking out seven and walking none. The effort was good enough to provide him his first road win since Opening Day. "He pitched in to both sides of the plate and all of his secondary pitches were working," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "His command was really good and he wiggled out of a couple situations, especially in the seventh inning. He did a nice job. You can't ask for anything more than that." The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Phillies and was just the team's third loss since the All-Star break. Cody Asche and Odubel Herrera provided the offense with RBI singles in the second and fifth innings, but the team couldn't muster much offense beyond that and didn't get much help from starting pitcher Adam Morgan or the bullpen. "The story was Teheran was good and Morgan wasn't sharp," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He didn't have real good command of his fastball. He got hurt. Teheran, he's been tough on us for the past two years. He changes speeds, he mixed his pitches well. He had a real good slider. He always has a good changeup. He just pitched very well. We got some hits, but didn't string a lot together."

  • After making one of the best starts of his young career the last time he faced the Braves, Morgan wasn't able to replicate the same level of success on Sunday afternoon. Most of his struggles can be attributed to a lack of control. Morgan walked three batters, with two of them coming around to score. A leadoff walk to Maybin in the fifth, was followed by a balk that sent Maybin to second and he eventually scored later in the inning. "When you don't have command of the fastball it's tough to get ahead," Morgan said. "Hitters, in my opinion, are taught to sit on the breaking pitches and react off the fastball. And when you don't have the fastball, it's easier for them."
  • The Phillies stranded almost as many men on base as they had hits on Sunday. The Phillies managed 10 hits, hitting double digits for the fourth consecutive game. They weren't able to do much with those hits though, leaving eight men on base and going just 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Multiple runners were stranded in the second, fifth and seventh innings.
  • It will be interesting to see if Ryan Howard starts for the Phillies against Wood and the Dodgers. On the one hand, Howard has hit safely in his last eight games, his longest streak since April 17-30, 2013. On the other hand, Howard normally sits against left-handed pitching and Wood is no exception. Howard has only faced Wood four times despite the amount of times Wood has faced the Phillies. Wood has gotten the best of Howard as he is 0-for-3 with a walk.

Jimmy Rollins played 1,047 games in Philadelphia wearing red and white. Tuesday he'll make his first appearance in blue. Traded to the Dodgers in the offseason, the player with the most hits, most doubles and third-most runs scored in Phillies history will return to Philadelphia as a visiting player when the Phillies host the Dodgers for the first contest of a three-game series. This won't, however, be the first time that Rollins plays against his former team. The Phillies and Dodgers played a four-game series in early July, a series in which the Dodgers took three out of four games. In that series, Rollins went 5-for-15 with two doubles, a home run, five RBIs and four runs scored. Alex Wood will be making his Dodgers debut Tuesday after Los Angeles acquired the pitcher from the Braves before the non-waiver Trade Deadline. Wood, a 24-year-old starting pitcher in his third season in the Majors, was 7-6 with a 3.54 ERA in 20 starts with Atlanta this year. Wood is having the worst season of his career by WHIP, as he is allowing 1.408 men on base per inning and is allowing 10 hits per nine innings. As a former Brave, it is no surprise that Wood has an extensive history against the Phillies. The left-hander has made seven starts and 12 appearances with a 3.07 ERA over those 44 combined innings. Wood tossed his only career complete game against the Phillies in 2014.


Utley Making Progress – The man leading the Phillies in on-base percentage might soon have far fewer chances to get on. Six-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger Award winner Chase Utley has been on the disabled list since June 23 with inflammation in his right ankle, but he made his first rehab start with Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Sunday. Utley went 2-for-3 with a walk, an encouraging sign given that the second baseman reached base three times in just seven of the 65 games he played in the Majors this year. Utley's return, however, is likely the signal of a reduced role for his replacement, Cesar Hernandez. Hernandez has proven himself to be more than serviceable in Utley's absence, batting .278 with a .354 on-base percentage, the best among regular starters on the team. Over the past few weeks, Hernandez has been a fixture atop the Phillies' lineup, slotting in as the leadoff man, the No. 2 batter and even filling in for Maikel Franco in the three hole a couple of times. Despite Hernandez's strong play, Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said Sunday, after the Phillies' 6-2 loss to the Braves, that Hernandez's job on this team is going to change when Utley returns. "I'm not going to just dump Utley on the bench," Mackanin said. "He's going to get playing time somewhere. And I'm going to find him playing time. I spoke to him yesterday about it. I'll mix it up, move him around. Play Cesar at shortstop for example to allow Utley to play. It's important for us, I believe, to get him at-bats." Hernandez said postgame on Sunday that he is comfortable moving to shortstop if necessary and he has experience there. Mackanin also said that Utley might earn some reps at first base on days that Ryan Howard might need rest, maximizing the ways to get both Utley and Hernandez in the lineup. With that in mind, there still isn't any guarantee that Utley will be a Phillie moving forward. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. still has the opportunity to trade players who clear waivers between now and the wavier Trade Deadline on August 31 and it isn't out of the question for Utley to be among those traded if he does in fact clear waivers. Adding on to that, Amaro said that he and the organization will try to continue making moves until that deadline. "I think there are still some things that could happen," Amaro said. "The process hasn't ended. We've got a lot of work to do still." As for the timetable for Utley's return, not much is known about when he will rejoin the Major League club. He will continue his rehab on Tuesday and Wednesday, this time with Double-A Reading, and Mackanin said he would like to see Utley play some second base as opposed to being the designated hitter, like he was on Sunday. Whenever Utley does get back though, Mackanin said he believes Utley will be a key contributor. "There's no way I'm just going to let him sit on the bench," Mackanin said. "Because he's got value and I think he's got a lot left."

Aggressiveness Paying Off – Odubel Herrera is the kind of center fielder who is probably going to make a bunch of errors. But that's what makes him so exciting. "He's the kind of outfielder who wants to catch every ball," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He doesn't play away from mistakes. He doesn't play away from errors. He wants the ball hit to him. Even if it's not, he wants to catch it." It's that style of play that led Mackanin, after the Phillies' 6-2 loss to the Braves, to describe Herrera, who never played in the Majors and had next-to-zero experience in the outfield before 2015, as "fearless" and "aggressive." And as of late, that style has played off for the rookie. In 23 games since June 26, Herrera has raised his batting average from .243 to .282. Over that same span, his OPS has jumped more than 100 points. And with Ben Revere no longer an option in center field after he was traded to Toronto on Friday, Herrera's increasing contributions have become even more valuable to the Phillies. Take Sunday for example. Herrera went 1-for-4 with an RBI single in the fifth. He also made a sliding catch in the outfield on a sinking liner while fighting the difficult angle of the sun that affected outfielders all day. He also ended the Braves' four-run fifth inning by throwing out catcher Ryan Lavarnway, who was trying to stretch a single into a double. Sunday was the kind of day where Herrera's innate aggression helped him as an outfielder. But in Mackanin's opinion, Herrera's growth as a hitter has come from how well he's listened to coaching and been able to quell his aggression with a bat in his hands. "Offensively, he's coming," Mackanin said. "He went through that lull earlier in the season where his average fell to about .250. It seemed like he learned to tone himself down a little bit. Not be so aggressive against certain pitchers. He's learning what to expect from certain pitchers. For a guy that hit .280 as a rookie -- he might possibly hit .300 -- he just looks confident at the plate." With Revere no longer on the roster, Herrera's opportunities to play are going to magnify; he is now the Phillies' center fielder rather than a player who shares time. And based on the timeline of Herrera's development process, Revere's trade came at the right time. "He's just a raw talent that's starting to get a little more polish to him," Mackanin said. "He's got the ability with his eye-hand coordination. He hits mistakes. He's gaining ground as the season goes on."

Bringing Heat – Ken Giles is not the only pitcher in the Phillies' organization that can hit 100 mph with his fastball. The Phillies on Friday acquired two hard-throwing Minor League pitchers from the Toronto Blue Jays for outfielder Ben Revere: right-handers Jimmy Cordero and Alberto Tirado. Cordero's fastball has hit 102 mph. Tirado's fastball has hit 98. "Very big arms," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Sunday morning at Citizens Bank Park. "Both were playing in [Class A Advanced] Dunedin this season, so we've seen them a lot." Both are relief pitchers, but the Phillies are considering moving Tirado back into the rotation next season. Cordero, 23, went a combined 0-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 50 innings with Dunedin and Double-A New Hampshire. Tirado, 20, posted a 3.23 ERA in 61 1/3 innings with Dunedin. Opponents hit .213 against him, while he averaged 8.95 strikeouts per nine innings. The Blue Jays moved Tirado, who was the ninth-best prospect in Toronto's system according to, from the rotation to the bullpen because they figured it would be his quickest path to the big leagues. But because the Phillies are in a rebuilding process, they can afford to be a little more patient with their pitchers. "He's a young kid," Amaro said about Tirado. "He's got the makings of three-plus pitches, so we may push him back next year and get him stretched out to see what he can do in the rotation. Cordero, he fires. He needs a little work on his secondary pitches, but he's got a natural cut to his fastball. He throws a 96-102 mph cutter. So if he gets some command and gets a secondary pitch consistently he could help."

The Phillies are starting the season as expected and are now at the bottom of the NL east at 41-65. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and performance so far this season, this could end up being the worst team in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 38-64-0 on this day.

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