Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Harang And Asche Lead Phillies Past Marlins

GAME RECAP: Phillies Filet Marlins 6-2

Aaron Harang shut down the Marlins for his second strong outing at Marlins Park in exactly one month and Cody Asche belted two homers, as the Phillies defeated Miami, 6-2, in Tuesday's series opener. The veteran righty was helped by some early offense, as Philadelphia struck early to help notch its eighth win in nine games against the Marlins. The Phillies jumped ahead, 3-0, on a second-inning Freddy Galvis two-run single. Asche then hit solo homers in the fourth and eighth inning (his 10th and 11th of the season), while Darin Ruf launched a seventh-inning solo shot. That would be enough for Harang, who allowed only two runs in seven innings. The 37-year-old last pitched in Miami on Aug. 22 when he also surrendered just two runs in seven innings that day. "Cody Asche had a pretty good day," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, who signed a contract extension through next season before the game. "Today was his day. I told him to go and buy me some lottery tickets." Miami starter Tom Koehler (10-14, 3.94 ERA) went just five innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits. Miguel Rojas hit his first homer of the season -- a two-run blast in the seventh inning -- but that was it for the Marlins, who have lost four straight. "It was a struggle from pitch one," Koehler said. "It's unfortunate. I didn't really give the guys a chance tonight to get something going offensively."

  • It has been a rough few months for Harang, who earned his first win since July 30 and his second since May 14. He allowed seven hits and two runs in seven innings, benefiting from double plays in the second, third and fourth innings.
  • Asche homered in the fourth and eighth innings for the first multi-homer game of his career. He is hitting .304 (7-for-23) with four homers and seven RBIs in his last eight games. He hopes to carry his current hot streak through the end of the season, after an up-and-down year. "Every day I'm trying to make progress and not just tread water while I'm here," Asche said. "I've been through some ups and downs and I know what it feels like to have this opportunity taken away, so just stick it through and not take any of these opportunities for granted."
  • Aaron Altherr and Odubel Herrera employed a double steal in the first inning, which led to the Phillies' first run when Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto threw a ball into left field trying to get Altherr at third. Asche homered in the fourth inning and eighth innings for the first multi-homer game of his career. Ruf also homered in the seventh.
  • "I'm really excited for him. [The Phillies] have seen the positives and heard the positive feedback from players, just how well he communicates with everybody and tries to keep everybody loose. That's a big thing." -- Harang, on Mackanin getting the managerial job through next season.
  • Ryan Howard remains sidelined with a bruised left knee. There is a chance he might not play again this season.
  • Casey McGehee is 3-for-7 with two RBIs in his career vs. Buchanan. His seven at-bats are the most for any Marlins player against the righty.
  • Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria has a chance to be back in action Wednesday or Thursday. He has been out with a bothersome hamstring since Sept. 2, but Marlins manager Dan Jennings said before Tuesday's contest that Hechavarria may return this series.

Phillies right-hander David Buchanan hopes to enter the offseason with a reason to be optimistic. A strong start Wednesday night against the Marlins at Marlins Park could help. Buchanan is 2-9 with an 8.49 ERA in 12 starts this season. He allowed five hits and two runs in six innings last week in a start against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. It was one of his better starts of the season. Buchanan faces Marlins left-hander Adam Conley (4-1, 4.22 ERA). He is coming off of a seven-inning shutout victory against the Mets on Wednesday, which easily marked the best performance of his rookie campaign. The lefty has now allowed three runs or fewer in all five of his starts since Aug. 23. His first start of that stretch actually came against the Phillies at Marlins Park, as he took the loss despite surrendering just one run in six innings.


MacKanin Finally Gets His Chance – The Phillies believe Pete Mackanin is the right guy to manage the Phillies in 2016. Before they find Ruben Amaro Jr.'s replacement as general manager, the Phillies announced that they extended Mackanin's contract through next season with a club option for 2017 before Tuesday's 6-2 win over the Marlins. "Pete, in my view, had a significant leg up in that I've seen the energy level move up since he's been [in the position]," said incoming Phillies president Andy MacPhail, who also interviewed Phillies first base coach Juan Samuel for the job. "I think it's our job as the front office to be pretty realistic about what it is that we have and we don't have. It's our job to try to make sure we're aware of the whole circumstance and evaluate those things that are truly important going forward. "You always want to be competitive, but at the same time this franchise finds itself in a position where a lot of young players are going to get opportunities. We need to nurture them in such a way where they grow to be as good as they possibly can be. And we have to make sure we have the right people around them to achieve that goal." Mackanin, 64, had been the Phillies' interim manager since June 26, when Ryne Sandberg stepped down. The Phillies are 30-46 since, but 27-32 since the All-Star break. Players have said there is more energy in the clubhouse and better communication among them and the coaching staff with Mackanin in charge. "He's able to speak our language," Phillies closer Ken Giles said. "He knows how to speak to us." "I think it would be hard to find a guy that wasn't happy for Pete getting this opportunity," Phillies outfielder Jeff Francoeur said. Mackanin is happy, too. "At some point I had given up the thought that one day I'd be doing this," said Mackanin, who previously had been an interim manager with Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. "Now I've got an opportunity. I'm just going to do the best I can, manage the way I know how to manage. That's the only thing I can do, do things the way I know how to do them. And let the chips fall where they may." Interestingly, Mackanin essentially will enter his first Spring Training as a full-time manager auditioning for the next GM. "When we talked about it, it made a lot of sense," Mackanin said about his conversations with MacPhail. "Andy said look, I think it's only fair to whoever that new guy might be to have some say who his manager would be. I get it. You can't just sign me to a three-year contract and then hire a general manager who is stuck with me if he doesn't want me. And hopefully the guy will like me and want to extend me." MacPhail hinted a couple of weeks ago that he planned to hire Mackanin before he hired Amaro's replacement. He said he didn't want his new GM wasting the first half of a critical offseason searching for a manager. MacPhail essentially interviewed Mackanin on Saturday in Atlanta and told him then that he wanted to make a decision before the end of the road trip. MacPhail called Mackanin on Monday and invited him to breakfast Tuesday morning. "I thought, 'Well, OK, maybe tomorrow is the day,'" Mackanin said. "And as it turns out, it was." MacPhail offered Mackanin a contract over breakfast. Of course, now that Mackanin is the man, will he change his style? An interim manager can do only so much, after all. A manager carries a bigger hammer. "I've thought about that, and I know that I can't change," Mackanin said. "I can be a little more demanding in what I want done. In the way of instituting some things that perhaps I want to really zoom in on and pay more attention to and maybe demand a different style of play. But as far as my demeanor is concerned, I know I can't change. I've seen coaches become managers and change their whole personality, and I know one of my biggest assets is my personality. I think I get the attention of players because of it. So that being one of my assets, I better not change." Mackanin said he will have input on his coaching staff. It is expected some of the staff will return, although how much remains to be seen. He also said he expects a certain level of autonomy from the front office when it comes to making out the lineup and in-game decisions. "The GM provides the players with input from the manager. The manager runs the game with input from the GM," Mackanin said. "You can't overdo one or the other. That being the case, I know for a fact they're not going to throw a lineup on my desk and make me use that lineup. " Mackanin is excited for the opportunity. He has waited a long time for this. "I'm looking forward to instituting my way of doing things starting from Spring Training on to set the tone," he said. "That's what I'm looking forward to."

Keeping An Eye On Him – The Phillies have been watching rookie right-hander Aaron Nola's workload, but he will make another start Saturday in Washington. "He was gung-ho," Mackanin said. "He wants to start again. He said, 'I feel great. I'm anxious to get back out there.' So he's going to get another start and then we'll go from there."

Still Feeling Something – Infielder Maikel Franco has not played since August with a broken left wrist. Despite some improvement, Franco still feels something in his wrist. "Another few days and it doesn't look like he's going to get any at-bats to get any timing," Mackanin said. "I would guess that it doesn't look good for him the rest of the year. We have to see. Before he leaves Clearwater, they want to make sure he's 100 percent because he's going to play Winter Ball. They're not going to let him leave to play Winter Ball if he's still feeling something. He'll probably rejoin us in Philly to collect his things and get reevaluated."

Questionable Future – Ryan Howard's bruised left knee has improved, but not to the point he can hit. The longer he sits, the less of a chance he plays again in 2015. But will Howard play for the Phillies in 2016? Howard will make $25 million next season, which does not include a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option. "Well, he leads our team in home runs and RBIs," incoming Phillies president Andy MacPhail said Tuesday afternoon at Marlins Park. "I think if he had been on the field those three games [over the weekend] in Atlanta, I bet we would have won one. But some of his struggles have been well chronicled, too. So I think we just get him healthy again, get him to Spring Training and see where we are." Howard, who will turn 36 in November, leads the Phillies with 23 home runs and 77 RBIs, but his .720 OPS is 103rd out of 147 qualified hitters in baseball. His .418 OPS against left-handers this season has turned him into a platoon player with manager Pete Mackanin not playing him against left-handed starters. The Phillies have tried to trade Howard for some time, but have found scant interest, despite the fact they have offered to pay almost the entirety of his contract. Perhaps MacPhail and the Phillies' next general manager will have better luck in the offseason. "I anticipate he'll be in Clearwater," MacPhail said about Howard's presence in Spring Training. "We'll see where we go there. I don't know what's going to happen over the course of the winter, what opportunities may be available for us and for him. We just have to cross that bridge when we get there, but right now he's somebody we have a vested interest in getting back healthy and getting him to Clearwater and getting that bat in our lineup that we don't have without him."

Searching For A GM – Andy MacPhail checked one box on his To-Do list Tuesday, when he officially offered Pete Mackanin a contract extension through next season. Next up? Find a general manager and fill some holes on the team's roster. "I've had one interview, but just one," MacPhail, the Phillies' incoming president, said about his GM search Tuesday afternoon at Marlins Park. "I would say [it's in the] early stages." MacPhail declined to name the candidate, but he said he expects the process to begin in earnest immediately after the 2015 season. He said it remains his goal to hire Ruben Amaro Jr.'s replacement before the organizational meetings, which begin Oct. 26. But MacPhail also said it would be ambitious to find somebody by then. "I know there are some teams out there that have openings and they're actively interviewing," MacPhail said, "but I'm pretty confident that there is a lot of talent out there that would make any organization better, if we decide to go external." It is expected the Phillies will hire somebody outside the organization. One source told in June that Angels assistant general manager Matt Klentak is an ideal candidate. MacPhail hired Klentak in March 2008, when MacPhail worked with the Orioles, making Klentak one of the youngest executives in baseball. Klentak seems to fit Phillies owner John Middleton's profile a young up-and-coming baseball executive. Of course, there are others. But MacPhail also has to address the team's roster. "We're well aware of areas that we feel need to be improved," MacPhail said. "Absolutely we feel like we need to be active this offseason, trying to support the playing talent that's already on the field with areas that need to be improved." But he also indicated it makes little sense to sign a high-priced free agent or two when the Phillies are just getting out of multiple high-end contracts. The players they acquire in the offseason are more likely to bridge the gap between a rebuilding team and a contending team. "I'm going to give you a Dwight Eisenhower quote," MacPhail said. "He found when he went to battle that plans were useless, but planning was indispensable. So, we do plan. We have our planning, and our planning at this point is recognizing where we are. There is some talent that we have we think is viable talent, but it needs to come percolate and demonstrate that it's real. And after that period, you might go forward. But do you really want to commit after you've just been in that pool and suffered from it? Do you really want to commit at this stage? The only caveat I give you is that if there's a unique opportunity out there, I wouldn't want to preclude it from happening … particularly when you consider that once we get to '17 we are really pretty footloose and fancy free. We have a lot of latitude." MacPhail also said nobody should worry about not being able to acquire talent down the road just because some are signed this offseason. "I think you're always going to have that opportunity," he said. "Just like Texas did with [Cole] Hamels. Nobody necessarily predicted it, but to think that, 'gee, if we don't strike this year because there are these three, four pitchers out there, we'll never get another opportunity.' That is wrong. There are going to be other opportunities. But I think the important thing is to do it when that foundation is there that merits it and supports it."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 57-94. 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 53-52-1 on this day.

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