Sunday, August 23, 2015

Young Bats Back Veteran Arm In Phillies Win

GAME RECAP: Phillies Edge Marlins 4-2

The Phillies picked an opportune time to belt their first back-to-back home runs this season. With one out in the ninth inning on Saturday, Aaron Altherr and Darin Ruf each connected off A.J. Ramos, lifting Philadelphia to a 4-2 victory over Miami at Marlins Park. The Marlins held a two-run lead until two outs in the eighth inning, when the Phillies began to do their damage with solo shots. Darnell Sweeney homered off Justin Nicolino in the eighth for his first MLB hit. Philadelphia has won two of three in the four-game series, and is now one game behind Miami for last place in the National League East. "It felt good to get that hit," Altherr said. "We made a good comeback there at the end and that's all we needed. We just needed a couple hits in a row and get some runs scored. I'm just glad I was able to be a part of that." Nicolino, in his best big league start, held the Phillies scoreless on three hits through the first 7 2/3 innings. But with the rookie one out away from a clean eighth inning, Sweeney delivered a pinch-hit homer and Cesar Hernandez slapped a single to left. Nicolino was replaced after 101 pitches. Andres Blanco doubled to left on a 1-2 pitch from reliever Bryan Morris, pulling the Phillies even at 2. "We wasted a good performance," Morris said. "[Nicolino] dominated for 7 1/2 innings. You'd think it wouldn't be that hard to get one out. But sometimes it ends up being a crucial point in the game. I think if I do my job there, the game turns out different." The Marlins managed two hits and two runs off Phillies right-hander Aaron Harang, and three hits overall in the game. One of them was Derek Dietrich's bases-loaded, two-run double in the third inning, which gave Miami a lead it held until Philadelphia responded twice in the eighth. "It's bad spots. It's strictly about location," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said on the homers in the ninth. "You make mistakes, they're going to make you pay. Again, it's frustrating to see that."

  • The Phils stayed hot against Ramos, launching two more home runs off the Marlins' closer to push the series total to three. While Altherr and Ruf each launched one in the ninth on Saturday, Cody Asche homered in the ninth off Ramos in Thursday's 9-7 loss. Additionally, Jeff Francoeur also hit a walk-off homer vs. Ramos on July 19 in Philadelphia. "We got to their closer, who's been outstanding all year," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "You don't expect that, but the home runs are fun to see."
  • Sweeney -- pinch-hitting in the top of the eighth for the third at-bat of his career -- jumped on Nicolino's first-pitch 84-mph cutter and hit it beyond the left-center-field wall to cut the Phillies' deficit to 2-1. The homer, which marked Sweeney's first career hit, landed a projected 445 feet from home plate with a 105-mph exit speed, according to Statcast™. "It was a good feeling," Sweeney said. "I put a good swing on a good ball and it carried out. That's all I was trying to do was be aggressive early in the count."
  • "That third inning, I was just missing some pitches and they were doing a good job of taking pitches and battling. They say walks end up killing you -- and they almost did -- but the guys saw I was battling and they were able to come up and get a couple big hits." -- Harang, who walked four in the first three innings.
  • The Phillies have beaten the Marlins five of six times since the All-Star break.
  • Nola and Conley will face their respective opponents for the first time in their careers.
  • Ryan Howard, who hit three doubles in Friday's win, should be back in the Phillies' lineup after not starting on Saturday.
  • The Marlins are tagging the contest as Dontrelle Willis and Juan Pierre Day. Willis, a left-handed pitcher, and Pierre, a center fielder, were key players on the Marlins' 2003 World Series championship team. The first 10,000 fans in attendance will receive either a Willis or Pierre T-shirt.

After walking a career high in his last start, promising Phillies rookie Aaron Nola looks to regain his control in Sunday's series finale in Miami. He'll match up with Marlins rookie Adam Conley, who also wasn't sharp in his last outing. Nola (3-1, 4.41 ERA) walked four batters on Tuesday against Toronto, taking a no-decision as he allowed three earned runs in five innings. The four walks marked the most he has allowed in a professional start -- which includes 29 Minor League starts and six Major League starts. "I anticipate him having good command," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "The only thing he has to be careful of is, if he gets hit -- a lot of times players will be pitching well and then all of a sudden they get hit around one time, so they get less aggressive and try to nitpick. He has to avoid that." Conley (1-0, 5.82 ERA) went just 3 2/3 innings on Tuesday in Milwaukee, getting roughed up for four earned runs on nine hits. This will be his third start since being inserted into the rotation on Aug. 12.


Early Success – Phillies rookies Darnell Sweeney and Aaron Altherr aren't established home run hitters by any means, but the clutch power display by the youngsters in Saturday's 4-2 comeback win at Marlins Park was certainly an encouraging sign for Philadelphia's future. Trailing 2-0 in the eighth, the recently acquired Sweeney -- who's ranked 11th on the Phillies' top prospect list, according to -- pinch-hit and launched his first career homer -- which also marked his first Major League hit. Meanwhile, the left fielder Altherr, Philadelphia's No. 24 prospect who was just recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Tuesday, launched the go-ahead homer in the ninth for the second long ball of his career. "We just needed a couple hits in a row and get some runs scored," Altherr, 24, said. "I'm just glad I was able to be a part of that." Said the 24-year-old Sweeney: "I was just trying to be a little sparkplug in the lineup, and that's what they wanted me to do. I'm glad we got the win after it. It makes me feel better." Sweeney's solo shot -- which was a blast that landed a projected 445 feet from home plate, according to Statcast™ -- came off Marlins lefty Justin Nicolino, who hadn't allowed a run for 7 2/3 innings. It was only the third big league at-bat for the switch-hitting Florida native, who was just acquired from the Dodgers on Wednesday in the Chase Utley trade. "That was a nice thing to see," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He crushed that ball, which is a good sign. ... From both sides, we like his swing. That's one of the reasons we got him in the trade." Mackanin also raved about Altherr's swing, which he said is much improved since Spring Training. Altherr -- who is 4-for-13 with two homers since being recalled -- tagged Marlins closer A.J. Ramos to break a 2-2 tie. Darin Ruf then followed with a solo homer, as the duo recorded the first back-to-back homers for the Phillies this season. "His swing path is different -- he's more compact and he's got more bat speed than I thought he had based on what I saw in the spring," Mackanin said. "He looks like he's gonna be a pretty good hitter, and we know he's a good defensive player, so nice-looking young guy." Mackanin added after the game that Sweeney earned himself his first career start in Sunday's series finale, while Altherr has started four of the past five games. "Just better pitch selection than years before," Altherr said. "I'm waiting for my pitch and not trying to swing at everything -- just being selective and it's paying off. Hopefully I can continue to keep that going."

Settling Down – Just like Phillies veteran Aaron Harang has been working extra the past couple of weeks to break his August slump, the righty did some soul searching after a rough third inning in Saturday's outing and regrouped to notch a quality start in Philadelphia's 4-2 comeback win at Marlins Park. "I kind of figured some things out after that inning -- felt like I was rushing a little bit," Harang said. "I was able to think about it after the inning. I told myself to slow down and get things under control." The 37-year-old tossed seven innings on 110 pitches, allowing two earned runs on two hits and three walks. The no-decision ended a three-game losing streak to start August in which he had allowed 18 runs on 26 hits in 15 innings. "I just kind of have been figuring some things out," said Harang, who was reinstated from the 15-day disabled list on July 30. "We've kind of been working on stuff this past week in the bullpen. It felt like ever since I came back, I was rushing a little bit and not getting my arm on top enough." It looked like it might be another rough outing for Harang after he allowed two third-inning runs on three walks and a two-run double by Derek Dietrich. But he didn't surrender a hit the rest of the way and kept the Phillies within striking distance -- which they took advantage of by scoring four runs in the final two innings. "That third inning I was just missing some pitches and they were doing a good job of taking pitches and battling," Harang said. "They say walks end up killing you -- and they almost did -- but the guys saw I was battling and they were able to come up and get a couple big hits." Said interim manager Pete Mackanin said, "He settled down and pitched very well. He's a bulldog -- he has a bulldog mentality. It hasn't been going his way most of the year, at least in the second half. But I know he's got that in him."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 49-74. 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 36-60-0 on this day.

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