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.

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