Saturday, September 12, 2015

Day Or Night, Phillies Can’t Find A Way To Win

GAME 1 RECAP: Cubs Beat Phillies 5-1

Jake Arrieta won his Major League-leading 19th game Friday night and helped the Cubs keep pace in their push for the playoffs with a 5-1 win over the Phillies in the first game of a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park. Austin Jackson and Kris Bryant hit consecutive RBI doubles in the fifth, Addison Russell added a two-run double in the sixth and Starlin Castro belted a solo homer in the seventh to back Arrieta, now 19-6. The right-hander did serve up Aaron Altherr's solo homer, but still notched his 16th straight quality start, the most by a Cubs pitcher since Lon Warneke posted 17 in a row in 1933. Arrieta's ERA dropped to 1.99 for the season. He's not looking at individual statistics at this point, although Cy Young voters should be. "It doesn't matter to me," Arrieta said of his personal numbers. "After the season is over, you look at your line and you can appreciate it then. It's not even where my mind's at. Those are things people strive for. They set their sights high and try to reach the milestones. Obviously, I'll get 200 innings, I got 200 strikeouts, and that's great. I just want to be quality for the team and finish good enough." The Phillies were the only team to beat Arrieta in his last 16 starts, doing so on July 25 at Wrigley Field when Cole Hamels threw a no-hitter. The Cubs' ace now has won eight consecutive starts. "Arrieta is a potential Cy Young candidate," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He pitched very well." The Cubs began the day with a firm hold on the second National League Wild Card spot, trailing the Pirates by 2 1/2 games for the first spot. The Giants were third in the Wild Card standings, nine games back.

GAME 2 RECAP: Cubs Beat Phillies 7-3

Rookie Kyle Schwarber needed just two pitches to hit two home runs, both monster shots, and Kris Bryant drove in three runs, including two on his 24th homer, to power the Cubs to a 7-3 victory Friday and complete a sweep of a doubleheader against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Bryant's blast, a two-run shot in the fifth, and his RBI single in the seventh raised his season RBI total to 90, a Cubs rookie record and tops on the team. He broke the mark in the first game with an RBI double. Bryant now is tied with the Dodgers' Joc Pederson for the most homers among Major League rookies. Schwarber, meanwhile, connected on Nos. 14 and 15, the latter of which included a face plant rounding first while circling the bases. The Cubs' three home runs all came off the Phillies' Alec Asher, who remains winless in three starts. Chicago starter Kyle Hendricks benefited from the power and notched his first win since Aug. 8. "Schwarber is a monster, boy," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's got a real strong, quick swing. You can't leave the ball out over the plate to him." Chicago won the first game, 5-1, behind Jake Arrieta, who picked up his Major League-leading 19th win. With the sweep, the Cubs moved within two games of the Pirates for the top National League Wild Card spot. "The consensus here is everybody's thinking about October," Hendricks said. "We're that close. We can smell it. With that lead, you never can take anything for granted. We're in a good spot."

  • Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan retired 14 of the first 18 batters he faced, but the Cubs got to Morgan their third time through the lineup. He allowed hits to five of the final seven batters he faced, allowing seven hits and four runs in five-plus innings to fall to 5-6 with a 4.60 ERA. "I just left some pitches over the plate for them to hit," Morgan said. "That's a good hitting team."
  • Rookie Altherr continues to show some pop. He hit a solo home run to left field in the second inning to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead. It was Altherr's 10th extra-base hit in 80 plate appearances since being promoted from Triple-A. Meanwhile, Howard went 0-for-4 to extend his hitless streak to 33 at-bats. It is the longest such stretch by a Phillies player since Raul Ibanez had a 35 at-bat hitless streak in 2011. "He's our first baseman," Mackanin said of Howard. "He's got to battle his way out of it. We really need him. He's the power guy in our fourth spot."
  • The Phillies challenged a call in the fourth inning after Howard grounded into a double play. First-base umpire Ben May ruled Howard out at first base, but replay officials in New York overturned the call and Howard was safe.
  • Asher has not found the big leagues to be kind since the Phillies promoted him from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is 0-3 with a 10.67 ERA in his first three big league starts. He allowed seven hits, six runs, three walks and three home runs in just five innings against the Cubs. "I'm concerned about it," Mackanin said. "We knew he was going to take his lumps. Everybody is really happy when they get here. They come with confidence because they've had success in the Minor Leagues. After a few poor outings, they learn quick that, 'This is a better league than I was in. I can't make many mistakes. I've got to regroup.'"
  • Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard doubled to right-center field in the seventh inning to snap an 0-for-35 slump. It was the longest slump by a Phillies hitter since Raul Ibanez went 0-for-35 in 2011. No Phillies non-pitcher had gone longer without a hit since Desi Relaford went 0-for-36 in 1998. Brett Myers went 0-for-40 from 2006-08. "[Ibanez], pretty good hitter, so it happens to the best of them," Mackanin said. "It was nice to see Howie break out, so that probably took a little pressure off. You know how hot he can get. We're just hoping he can get hot again."
  • Friday marked the Cubs' first traditional (non-split admission) doubleheader since they played two against the D-backs on Aug. 3, 2006, at Wrigley Field. The Phillies, on the other hand, already had played a traditional twin bill this season.
  • Phillies rookie center fielder Odubel Herrera entered Friday's doubleheader leading all rookies with a .300 batting average and 26 doubles.
  • The Cubs entered the twin bill with at least one extra-base hit in every game since Cole Hamels no-hit them July 26.
  • With his RBI double in the fifth inning Friday, Cubs outfielder Kris Bryant established a club rookie record with 87 RBIs.

Travis Wood makes his first start since mid-May, hoping to keep things going Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park when the Cubs and Phillies play the third of a four-game set, with rookie Jerad Eickhoff starting for Philadelphia. With wet weather on the horizon, the Cubs are tabbed Wood over scheduled starter Dan Haren, who will now start on Sunday. Wood is 2-2 with a 5.59 ERA in seven starts this season. Since being moved to the bullpen after a May 14 start, Wood pitched in 38 games, going 3-2 with a save over 50 innings. Eickhoff will be making his fifth start since his promotion from Triple-A. He allowed six runs in four innings last weekend in Boston, after allowing six runs in 19 innings in his first three starts.


Is Howard Back? – Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin showed his respect for Ryan Howard a couple of weeks ago at Citi Field in New York, when he said he would not be the manager to pinch-hit for him. Mackanin continued to stick with Howard following a 5-1 loss to the Cubs in Game 1 of Friday night's doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park. Howard went 0-for-4 to extend his hitless streak to 33 at-bats, which was the longest slump by a Phillies batter since Raul Ibanez went hitless in 35 consecutive at-bats in 2011. Howard matched Ibanez, when he went hitless in his first two at-bats in Game 2, but he doubled to right-center field in the seventh inning of the 7-3 loss to snap the skid. Howard avoided becoming the first Phillies non-pitcher to go hitless in 36 at-bats since Desi Relaford in 1998. Len Matuszek also went hitless in 36 at-bats in 1982-83, with no non-pitcher going longer than 37 at-bats without a hit since '74. Phillies right-hander Brett Myers went 0-for-40 from 2006-08. "[Ibanez], pretty good hitter, so it happens to the best of them," Mackanin said. "It was nice to see Howie break out, so that probably took a little pressure off. You know how hot he can get. We're just hoping he can get hot again." Mackanin has told Howard he will not start against left-handed starters the rest of the season, although he also said he would not pinch-hit for the veteran first baseman when a left-handed reliever entered the game to face him. Howard had been one of the most feared sluggers in baseball for years, but he has posted a .426 OPS against left-handers this season, which would be the lowest mark in baseball if he had enough plate appearances to quality. Howard also has a .620 OPS against lefties since 2011, which is 233rd out of 252 hitters in baseball in that span. Howard left the clubhouse before it opened to reporters, so he was unavailable to comment. "I've seen him in slumps before," Mackanin said. "In the past, he's been very streaky. I haven't seen him in this big of a slump. There's no other alternative. He's got to keep playing and he's got to keep swinging the bat." Howard is making $25 million this season. He will make $25 million next season, plus he will receive a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option. The Phillies have tried to trade him for more than a year, but have found no takers -- even after offering to pay almost everything owed on Howard's contract. So Howard will continue to play this season. He could be back next season, too. "He's our first baseman," Mackanin said.

Hamels Trade Looking Good – Jake Thompson couldn't have picked a better time to throw the first shutout of his career. The Phillies' No. 2 prospect scattered three hits over nine scoreless innings Friday in a 3-0 win against Binghamton, giving Double-A Reading a 2-0 series advantage in the best-of-five Eastern League semifinals. He issued one walk and struck out eight, throwing 66 of 108 pitches for strikes. Thompson, baseball's No. 55 overall prospect, had completed eight innings just once in his four-year Minor League career before Friday's outing, while it was the 10th time in 72 starts in which he's struck out at least eight batters. "I threw a lot of strikes, got ahead in counts and was able to get them to put balls in play. And the defense made every play behind me," Thompson told "I was throwing good pitches in the bottom of the zone and was able to use off-speed early in the count to get ground-ball outs." I love all my teammates. Most memorable game of my life, let's get to the ship boys! @ReadingFightins @theknappyboy5 — Jake Thompson (@jthomp15) September 12, 2015. The 21-year-old right-hander was outstanding after coming over from the Rangers in the Cole Hamels deal, going 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 34 strikeouts and 12 walks in 45 innings over his final seven regular-season starts. Thompson's performance down the stretch was particularly encouraging after his up-and-down showing in the Texas League, where he pitched to a 4.72 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in 87 2/3 innings (17 starts) for Double-A Frisco. Overall, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder registered a 3.73 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 112/42 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 132 2/3 innings during the regular season, making 24 starts between Frisco and Reading. Thompson's effort was aided by a solo home run from Phillies No. 3 prospect (No. 59 overall) Nick Williams -- also acquired from the Rangers in the Hamels blockbuster -- who went 2-for-5 in his third game back from the disabled list (concussion).

 Will Bowa Be Back? – Incoming Phillies president Andy MacPhail dropped a hint about interim manager Pete Mackanin's future on Thursday. "I know the tradition is that the GM picks his manager," MacPhail said. "I'll just go full disclosure here; if that happens, and it takes you a while to find a GM and then he gets consumed the first month or two with a manager and coaching staff, look how much of the offseason we've lost. That's a high price to pay. So we have to keep that in mind." If Mackanin sheds the interim label to become the Phils' manager in 2016, he is expected to ask most of his coaching staff to return. That certainly includes bench coach Larry Bowa. But does Bowa want to return? "If I'm going to be in uniform as a coach, I would want it to be with Philadelphia," Bowa said before Friday's doubleheader against the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. "I've got a lot of energy. I like what I'm doing. But right now I'm not even thinking about it. I'm just trying to get through these final 23 games." The Phillies celebrated Bowa's 50th year in baseball this year. He turns 70 in December. Does Bowa need the stress that comes with a rebuilding team? Comcast SportsNet contacted Bowa in the offseason about joining their broadcast booth this season, but he declined. There seems to be little question he would get offers to return to TV, if he wanted to leave the field. Bowa did an excellent job with MLB Network. "Let's face it, it's been a terrible year," Bowa said. "It wears on you. You've got to sit back, take a deep breath and see where we're going. I think they've made great strides in continuing the youth movement, but I don't think we're there yet. "I was beating myself up earlier. I knew we were going to be subpar. I knew that. I saw it in Spring Training that we were short. Usually when I go home, I wouldn't talk. I'd go down in my cave and watch West Coast games. But after the All-Star break, I learned how to take a deep breath and say, 'It is what it is.' I never thought I would say that, but this year I've said over and over, 'It is what it is. Keep working.'" The work is what might keep Bowa on the field. "I do have a passion for baseball," he said. "And in my mind, Cesar [Hernandez] and Freddy [Galvis] today are better than they were April 5. I get satisfaction out of that."

Where To Go From Here? – Pat Gillick plans to officially hand the reins as Phillies president to Andy MacPhail sometime before the end of October. The exact date seems insignificant at this point. MacPhail relieved Ruben Amaro Jr. of his duties as general manager on Thursday. MacPhail will be making any significant baseball decisions from this point forward. He already informed the baseball operations staff it will return in 2016, and it seems very likely Pete Mackanin will return as the manager next year, too. So what's next for Gillick, who turned 78 in August? "I don't know," Gillick said. "At this point, I haven't even thought about it." Gillick has a small ownership stake with the Phils, so if he wanted to join a different organization, he would have to sell his portion. But Gillick's legacy with the Phillies is secure. He replaced Ed Wade as general manager following the 2005 season, and three seasons later, the Phils won the '08 World Series. Gillick remained in an advisory role until he replaced David Montgomery as president in August 2014. "I've been here 10 years now, one of the longer periods [with an organization]," Gillick said. "I was in Toronto, and this is second." Gillick declined to discuss the characteristics needed in the Phillies' next general manager. He deferred to MacPhail on that, but he said the job remains the same as it was when he served in that role through 2008. "The job is hiring the right people," Gillick said. "You can talk about everything you want to talk about, but it's hiring the right people and slotting them in the right spots so they can be successful. That's the whole gig." Gillick seemed to be an Amaro supporter until the end. He touted Amaro whenever he could. Asked if Amaro had his hands tied at times over the past few seasons, Gillick declined comment. But Gillick also acknowledged it would have been tough for MacPhail to bring back Amaro. "I don't think ... the public really would accept that," Gillick said. "That wasn't the reason the decision was made, but certainly the fans and the public play into every organization in the sports industry."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 54-88. 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 42-64-0 on this day.

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