Thursday, August 27, 2015

Phillies Offense Can’t Back Solid Outing

GAME RECAP: Mets Beat Phillies 9-4

For the third time this season, the Mets own a winning streak of at least half a dozen games. They grabbed their sixth straight win with a 9-4 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, extending their National League East lead over the Nationals to 6 1/2 games -- their largest since leading the Phillies by seven games with 17 to go in 2007 -- and putting themselves on pace for exactly 90 wins. "You've got to win games you're supposed to win, there's no question about it," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Right now, we'll take it." A continued offensive renaissance resulted in three first-inning runs off Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff and plenty of late insurance. Michael Cuddyer homered and drove in three runs, Michael Conforto delivered another multihit game and the Mets plated six-plus runs for the fifth time in their last six games, giving Bartolo Colon plenty of cushion throughout his seven scoreless innings. "I'm not happy about the loss," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "You never want to lose games. The Mets have had our number all year. We want to beat them, especially with a game tomorrow. We need to salvage something out of this series." The Mets wound up cashing in much of their insurance when the Phillies rallied for four runs off Eric O'Flaherty and Carlos Torres in the eighth, highlighted by Cameron Rupp's two-run double. But Tyler Clippard nailed down the final out of the eighth and the Mets cruised from there. The Phillies have lost eight consecutive games to the Mets and 11 of 12 this season.

  • The righty allowed three runs, two earned, in the first inning but quickly recovered and allowed just four runs over six innings. In a stretch that began with the final two outs of the first, the rookie retired 16 straight Mets hitter, five of which were strikeouts, before a Conforto double and a Juan Uribe single gave the Mets their fourth run of the night in the sixth. Eickhoff, who threw six scoreless innings in his Major League debut on Friday, fell to 1-1. "I thought [Eickhoff] did an outstanding job after that first inning," Mackanin said. "He basically had a quality start tonight. He turned himself around and pitched very well through the sixth inning."
  • The Phillies' offense lay dormant for most of the night against Colon. In the eighth, against the Mets' bullpen, the Phillies showed some signs of life as they manufactured four runs on four hits, a walk and an error. Clippard ended the threat when he got Darnell Sweeney to strike out swinging with two on. "We fought back," Mackanin said. "We were kind of listless the whole game. Mainly because Colon really knows how to pitch. That's the first time I've really seen him use more than a fastball. He generally cuts you up with a fastball, but tonight he used all of his pitches."
  • The Phillies are confident that rookie third baseman Maikel Franco will return to the lineup before the end of the season. Franco, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a broken left wrist, received encouraging news on Tuesday and looks to be two weeks away from possibly hitting off a tee.
  • The Mets have won 11 of 12 against the Phillies this year, including a current eight-game winning streak. The Mets have been particularly strong at Citizens Bank Park, where they are 26-8 since 2012.
  • David Wright will return to the lineup after getting Wednesday night off following two starts upon his return from the 60-day DL on Monday. Wright went 0-for-4 with a walk on Tuesday after he hit a home run in his first at-bat on Monday.

The Mets will look to continue their strong play away from Citi Field and complete a sweep of the Phillies behind Jon Niese in the final game of a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park. New York has found an offensive rhythm recently and has tied a club record for any month with 40 homers in August. The Mets have won six games in a row -- all on the road -- and own a 6 1/2-game lead on the second-place Nationals in the National League East. Niese, who has a quality start in 12 of his last 14 games, is 10-6 lifetime against the Phillies with a 2.77 ERA. This year he is 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA against Philly while allowing just one earned run in 13 1/3 innings. He is 5-0 in his last seven starts against the NL East rivals. The Phillies will go with Aaron Harang, who went seven innings and allowed just two runs at Miami in his last start. Harang had struggled in his three previous starts, allowing 18 runs in just 15 innings of work in three consecutive losses.


Settling Down – With a relatively young roster, the Phillies will be using the final six weeks of the season to gauge just what type of team they can field in 2016 and beyond. More to the point, the last month of evaluations won't be just about successes and failures. Instead, for a team that is clearly in a rebuilding phase, the biggest concern will be how this collection of players handles both scenarios. On Wednesday night, right-hander Jerad Eickhoff made just his second Major League start and first at Citizens Bank Park in a 9-4 loss to the National League East-leading Mets. The Mets entered the game as one of the hottest hitting teams in baseball in August and looked to bring the rookie crashing down to earth after he went six scoreless innings in his debut against the Marlins just five days ago. "I think he was a little nervous [making his first start at home]," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "For sure, I was getting nervous [after Eickhoff's pitch count hit 40 in the first inning]. We have a strapped bullpen. We can't keep going to the bullpen every night as much as we do. Obviously, he wasn't the guy in the first inning we saw in Miami. After that, he was." "I just needed to get settled," said Eickhoff, the team's No. 15 prospect. "The first start at home, there are some jitters. I think that's what I was getting rid of in that first inning. I knew my pitch count was up there so I just wanted to attack the zone, pitch to contact." For Eickhoff and the Phillies, the game started ominously when center fielder Odubel Herrera dropped a fly ball deep at the warning track in left-center. The Mets scored three runs in the frame on their way to their eighth straight win over the Phillies, but Eickhoff's recovery spoke louder than the final result. While it's hard to say one dropped ball changed the entire game, it certainly didn't help. Especially after Eickhoff used an economical 57 pitches over his final five innings. "Those things make a difference," Mackanin said of the dropped ball. "We talk about the fact that the only ball hit hard that inning was the [Michael Cuddyer double that brought home the second run]. The fly to center was well hit, but it should have been caught. "But the more important thing is he came out of it. As poorly as he located his pitches in that first inning, he located extremely well the rest of the game." Eickhoff went six innings and allowed four runs (three earned) on six hits and a walk while striking out six. After the shaky first, he recorded 16 straight outs and kept the Mets guessing until a double by Michael Conforto in the sixth and a single by Juan Uribe scored the fourth run. "After the first, I was able to get my slider over," said Eickhoff, who became the first Phillies rookie to record 16 straight outs since Mike Grace recorded 17 straight on May 12, 1996, against the Braves. "I was able to locate it off the plate when I needed to and then the occasional changeup." "He's a pretty solid guy," Mackanin said. "He really doesn't need reinforcement. He's got a lot of confidence."

Reacting To A Slump – Over the last month, the Phillies have made it clear that they are in full rebuilding mode. Mired in last place since the opening week of the season, the Phillies have traded several major components to one of the franchises most successful periods, including a World Series title in 2008. That has afforded playing time for young players such as Freddy Galvis and Odubel Herrera, both of whom were in the lineup on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park against the Mets. Cesar Hernandez has also seen a lot of playing time, but he started the night on the bench after a five-game slump that saw him hit .048 (1-for-21). Manager Pete Mackanin isn't concerned about the 25-year-old, and in fact, saw this as a chance to get a better feel for the young infielder's mental makeup. "We have to find out how he's going to react to [the recent slump]," Mackanin said. "We have to see if he's going to rebound. I think he's going to be fine. "When you think about it, he didn't play a lot early in the year. He has 300 and some at-bats. He plays in the winter, too, so physically he's fine and is used to it. You get tired mentally more than physically, but he's going to come out of it." Hernandez has played in a career-high 110 games so far this season and has hit .266 with 50 runs scored and 29 RBIs. Much of April saw him used as a late-game replacement, but with the injuries and subsequent trade of Chase Utley to the Dodgers, he started 32 of 33 games since the All-Star break until Wednesday night. "You see it all the time," Mackanin said. "[Galvis] hit [.355] in April and then it came down to .250. But he worked through it and is hitting [.273] for the year. You have to find a way to work through it."

Bowa Cites Safety – Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa has been around the game long enough to know he's going to hear from Major League Baseball over the next few days. "It will say, 'Dear Larry, I miss you,'" a clearly sarcastic Bowa said on Wednesday afternoon. "[Chief baseball officer Joe Torre's] going to say, 'After further review,' and then I'm going to let him know what the situation was." In Bowa and veteran outfielder Jeff Francoeur's mind, the quick pitch thrown by Mets reliever Hansel Robles in the seventh inning of the Phillies' 6-5 loss to New York on Tuesday endangered hitter Darin Ruf. Ruf had stepped into the box with his head down, and as home-plate umpire Dan Bellino signaled no pitch, it still came to the plate. "That's exactly what went down," said Bowa, who was ejected from the game and also had words with Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy. "It had nothing to do with us getting [beaten badly] for two nights. You're going to hurt somebody. That's all it is. "And the umpire said, 'I called no pitch.' It doesn't matter. The pitch was on the way. So if Ruf looks up. Yeah, he threw a strike. But they make mistakes throwing the baseball. They throw one up and in, and the guy turns around, the ball [could be] 10 inches from his face. There's no reason for that." On the surface, the ejection didn't have anything to do with the recent struggles the Phillies have had against the Mets, against whom they are just 1-10 this year. At the same time, it certainly didn't help and has to weigh heavily on a relatively young team that is not only playing the role of spoiler but fighting for jobs next year and beyond. "This is the big leagues ... we're playing for jobs, positions," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We got beat up the last couple of days. We want to win. Nobody likes it. I don't expect the players to be in a good mood. We want to win and there is a lot of emotion. We've seen it over the years, it just comes out. "The only grudge I have against [the Mets] is we want to beat them a few times. That's the bottom line. You want to win every night. It's more fun when you win."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 50-77. 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 48-51-1 on this day.

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