Sunday, August 30, 2015

Phillies Win Second Straight Behind Another Rookie

GAME RECAP: Phillies Edge Padres 4-3

If only the Phillies could play the Padres more frequently. They beat San Diego on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park, 4-3. It is their fifth straight win over the Padres this season and seventh consecutive victory against San Diego in Philadelphia, their longest home winning streak against the Padres since a seven-game streak from July 1976 to May 1977. The Phillies also are 55-23 (.705) against the Padres since 2004. It is their best winning percentage against any opponent in that span. Phillies second baseman Darnell Sweeney hit a two-run homer in the second while Freddy Galvis had an RBI double and Adam Morgan notched an RBI single in the fourth. Morgan allowed two unearned runs in six innings to pick up the win. "I take a lot of pride in that," Morgan said about not walking a batter in 22 2/3 innings in the past four starts. "Being able to control the ball and throwing where you want it is huge to me. I don't try to give up any free bags because that's when stuff starts getting out of hand." Padres right-hander Colin Rea allowed four runs in five innings in the loss. "[The Phillies] seem to get the big hit against us, catch the line drives and this game could have been very different," Padres interim manager Pat Murphy said. "[Morgan] had a great plan against us and a couple of the balls we hit hard were caught."

  • Sweeney has had limited playing opportunities since the Phillies acquired him from the Dodgers in the Chase Utley trade, but he has tried to make the most of it. He crushed a two-run home run to left-center field in the second inning to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead. It was his second homer in three starts with the Phillies. "When you watch this guy take batting practice, the ball doesn't really jump off his bat," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "I think he works on mechanics more than anything from either side of the plate. But he sure hit that ball in Miami [on Aug. 22] a long way, and today he [went] opposite field. He's got pop in his bat."
  • Phillies right-hander Luis Garcia had runners on second and third with two outs in the eighth inning, when he struck out pinch-hitter Cory Spangenberg to end the threat and preserve a one-run lead.
  • In the sixth inning, with the Phillies leading 4-2 and Kemp on first, Justin Upton lined a deep fly ball to the left-center field gap. The ball hung up just enough for Herrera to cover sixty-six feet of ground, top out at 20.1 mph according to Statcast™ and make a diving catch for the first out of the inning.
  • Phillies rookie outfielder Aaron Altherr singled to left field in the fifth inning. It was the first single of his big league career. Of course, before that he had seven extra-base hits. No player in the modern era (since 1900) has started his career with eight extra-base hits.
  • The Phillies optioned right-hander Nefi Ogando following the game to make room for Alec Asher, who will start Sunday's series finale. Asher will have his contract selected Sunday.
  • The Padres won an instant replay challenge in the eighth inning. Yonder Alonso was called out on a play at first base, but replay showed Alonso beat the throw from Galvis.
  • "He rebounded very nicely. He relies on command and control. He's certainly good in the control department. He needs to command his pitches a little bit better, but he did a number on them again. He pitched very well." -- Mackanin, on Morgan rebounding from a rough start this week against the Mets, when he allowed five runs and four home runs in 3 2/3 innings.
  • Asher was 14-years-old when he had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Asher's father Bob Asher told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the family paid $22,000 to have orthopedist James Andrews perform the surgery. They paid their final bill within the last year.
  • Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has had the most success of any Phillies when facing Shields (min. 10 ABs). Howard is 4-for-12 (.333) with a double, home run and one RBI.
  • The Padres hope to get 24-year old outfielder/first baseman Wil Myers back in the lineup sometime after Labor Day. Myers, who had right wrist surgery on June 18, could begin a rehab assignment soon after missing 100 games. He will be judged on a day to day basis on when he's ready to join the big club.

The Phillies will get to open yet another new toy from the Cole Hamels trade on Sunday as righty Alec Asher will make his debut against the Padres and James Shields. Asher is the second starter acquired in a trade with Texas that sent Hamels to the American League to make his debut this season, the other was Jerad Eickhoff, who is 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts. Shields is coming off a laborious outing against the Nationals in which he needed 121 pitches over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-3 loss on Tuesday. The veteran is 2-0 in four starts lifetime against the Phillies with a 5.70 ERA and enters the game with a 4.97 ERA away from Petco Park. Asher went 2-0 in four starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley with a 2.08 ERA since arriving from Texas.


Long Road Back – This is the moment Alec Asher probably envisioned when he had Tommy John surgery at 14 years old. Asher, 23, is one of the players the Phillies acquired from Texas last month in the Cole Hamels trade. He will make his big league debut on Sunday afternoon against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park, the second pitcher acquired in the trade to debut this season for the Phillies. "You don't realize how tall these stadiums are until you really get out there," Asher said Saturday evening. "But it's awesome. I'm almost speechless." Asher went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Before the trade, he went 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA in 12 starts with Triple-A Round Rock. Long before that, he had ulnar collateral ligament surgery. Asher's father Bob Asher told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the family paid $22,000 to have orthopedist James Andrews perform the surgery. They paid their final bill within the last year. "Never a moment of regret," Asher's father told the Inquirer. Alec said he has never met another pitcher who had the surgery at a younger age than him, but he is sure that person exists. "It's definitely rare," he said. "You don't definitely see that, but I guess it's becoming more common." ”I had always said I want to pitch in the Major Leagues, I want to be a Major League Baseball player. I always had that aspiration as a kid. I wasn't going to give up until I couldn't anymore. … I knew I loved baseball and I knew I wanted to keep playing. That was the only option. It was a no brainer for me and my family. It ended up working out all right." The Giants selected Asher out of Lakeland Senior High School in Fla., in the 23rd round of the 2010 Draft. He instead attended Polk Community College in Winter Haven, Fla., and the Rangers selected him in the fourth round in the 2012 Draft. Three years later he is in the big leagues. "It's been a hectic month for sure," Asher said about the July 31 trade. "I finally felt like I'd been in a place for a month, finally got my stuff settled in and then I get this news so I'm like, alright, I've got to get everything packed up and move it all again. It's been for the better, that's for sure. It's hard to complain when this stuff's going on for you."

Sweeney Impressive So Far – The Phillies have their playing time priorities for the remainder of the season, and Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera are priorities at second base and center field, respectively. Where does that leave Darnell Sweeney? Sweeney, whom the Phillies acquired this month from the Dodgers in the Chase Utley trade, is a second baseman and center fielder. He figured to be the odd man out, although he is making a case for more playing time. He ripped a two-run home run to left-center field in the second inning of Saturday night's 4-3 victory over the Padres at Citizens Bank Park. "There's a good chance of that for right now," said Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, when asked about more playing time for Sweeney. "Cesar is our second baseman, but he's in a funk right now and he needs to battle his way out of it. He's trying. Maybe a day off might help him. I might get Sweeney in there tomorrow." Hernandez is hitting .088 (3-for-34) in his last eight games, so a break might serve him well. But Sweeney seems unconcerned about his playing time at the moment. After all, he was in Triple-A before the trade. Any playing time in the big leagues figures to be pretty good right now. "I'm just excited to have this opportunity to be up here," he said. "Whenever my name is called I'll put my best foot forward, and whatever happens is going to happen. I'm just trying to play my game. I can't do too much." Sweeney has homered twice in 13 at-bats with the Phillies. He has reached base safely eight times in 18 plate appearances. Not bad. "When you watch this guy take batting practice, the ball doesn't really jump off his bat," Mackanin said. "I think he works on mechanics more than anything from either side of the plate. But he sure hit that ball in Miami [on Aug. 22] a long way, and today he [went] opposite field. He's got pop in his bat. We'll get more looks at him." The more Sweeney plays at home the more Phillies fans will hear some little old school rap during his at-bats. He has Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise" as his at-bat music. "I like to stick with the old school," Sweeney said with a smile. "It's been working for me for the past couple of years." After another homer Saturday, he should stick with it.

Howard Succeeding Against Righties – And then there were two. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard said that earlier this month, when the Phillies traded Chase Utley to the Dodgers. It left Howard and Carlos Ruiz as the only two remaining members of the 2008 World Series championship team. But as the Phillies have transitioned into a younger team, Howard has quietly put up some good numbers for almost two months. After Saturday night's 4-3 win against the Padres, he is now hitting .294 (42-for-143) with nine doubles, eight home runs, 34 RBIs in 40 games since July 5. Is that a matter of Howard maybe being a streaky hitter? Or could it be something else? "Howie will probably disagree with me," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said, "but I think it's because he's not facing as many left-handed pitchers. I think he feels more comfortable. I think if you can take that out of the equation then you don't have to worry about it." Howard has started against just two left-handers since July 5. He is hitting .273 with an .839 OPS against right-handers this season, but .138 with a .443 OPS against left-handers. Howard's OPS against right-handers ranks 42nd out of 156 qualified hitters in baseball this season, which makes him a pretty good threat. One would think a contender in need of a left-handed bat would be interested in him, if the Phillies agreed to pay the vast majority of the remaining $35 million-plus on his contract ($25 million in salary next season, plus a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option). But the Phillies have received little to no interest. "If you take that .138 out of your batting average you're going to be up to .270 where you belong and you're more confident," Mackanin said he told Howard. "And then the occasional lefty you face you're going to have that confidence and not worry about what he's going to throw me this time. Just go up there feeling confident. "I know for a fact because I didn't have that confidence very often in my career, but when you go up there and you know you're going to get a hit, it makes all of the difference in the world."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 52-78. 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 55-61-0 on this day.

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