Monday, September 21, 2015

It’s Groundhog Day: Phillies Fall In Walk Off

GAME RECAP: Braves Sweep Phillies 2-1

A.J. Pierzynski's walk-off single enabled the Braves to overcome a ninth-inning letdown and complete a three-game series sweep of the Phillies with a 2-1 win on Sunday afternoon at Turner Field. Andrelton Simmons sparked the ninth inning rally when his one-out chopper drew a throwing error from third baseman Cody Asche. Simmons stole third base and scored when Pierzynski lofted his game-winning single off Luis Garcia to shallow center field. "To win a game like that is good," said Pierzynski, who entered in the ninth after Christian Bethancourt was injured. "Winning another game [one-run game], especially after the way Julio [Teheran] pitched. To give it up the way we did and then win it the next [half] inning the way we did is fun." Braves starting pitcher Julio Teheran proved perfect through the first six innings and entered the ninth inning in search of his first shutout of the season. But after allowing consecutive one-out singles, he was replaced by Peter Moylan who surrendered a two-out, game-tying single to Andres Blanco. Freddie Freeman's first-inning RBI single off Aaron Nola started the scoring for the Braves, who have now won three straight games for the first time since Aug. 6-8. "We've been concerned about our starting pitching the whole season. Now we get three outstanding performances and we can't score a run," said Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, who got quality starts from Nola, Jerad Eickhoff and Adam Morgan in this series and lost all three games by a 2-1 score. "It's unfortunate, but we had a chance to win all three of these games."

  • The Phillies, who scored just a single run in losing each of the first two games of this series, struggled against Teheran all afternoon. In the eighth, they finally got something going. After a leadoff walk to Blanco and a bloop single off the bat of Darin Ruf, Philly's Cameron Rupp came up against Teheran. The big catcher tried to lay down a bunt to advance the runners and popped it to Teheran, who turned and easily doubled Blanco off second. In 95 career games, Rup has never had a sacrifice hit. Asche singled after the double play, but pinch-hitter Darnell Sweeney struck out to end the threat.
  • Philadelphia's Nola had a bit of a rough start, allowing a first-inning run, but even that was barely his fault. Michael Bourn led things off for Atlanta with a slow roller that got past hard-charging Galvis, playing just his second game at second this season. The ball dribbled into right in what originally was scored an error, but later changed to a double. Freeman drove him in with a soft liner to left, but Nola settled down from there. After the first, he allowed just two hits and three walks. Mackanin said after the game that he expects Nola to make his next start, but the team still has to make a final decision.
  • "You choose the way you're going to lose the game. I'm gonna lose it on a fly ball, I'm not going to lose it on a base hit up the middle." -- Mackanin, on his decision to play five infielders, and just two outfielders, against Pierzynski in the bottom of the ninth.
  • Freddy Galvis has struggled in his career against Koehler, going only 1-for-11 (.091) with three strikeouts.
  • Dee Gordon has led off 39 games this year with a base hit, including four of the last five. Charlie Blackmon has 40 leadoff hits this year, the most in baseball.

After a mutual off-day on Monday, Miami and Philadelphia play in the penultimate head-to-head series of the 2015 season. The Phillies have won eight of the first 13 meetings this year. The three-game series is the start of a six-game homestand for the Marlins before they hit the road for the final six games of the season. Adeiny Hechavarria (hamstring) and Martin Prado (wrist) are expected to return during the series. The Phillies have yet to announce a starter. The Marlins, meanwhile, will go with Tom Koehler (10-13, 3.90 ERA). Koehler is 0-1 in two career starts against the Phillies with five earned runs allowed in 11 innings.


Herrera Pulled – Mackanin pulled Herrera from the game after the center fielder flied out weakly to left to end the Phillies' half of the fourth inning. "He threw his bat after he flew out, and he didn't run hard. So I took him out of the game," Mackanin said. Herrera, hitting .293 with a team-high 135 hits, was hitting .342 over his last 66 games before Sunday. But his manager said the rookie has been in a little funk lately, so when he failed to hustle, Mackanin took action. "Boys play Little League, men play Major League Baseball. We will not pout, we will not feel sorry for ourselves," Mackanin said. "He had to learn a lesson. To me, he's been pouting for a few days, and I just want to make sure he gets the message. We're just not going to stand for it."

Shutting Down – With 12 games left in their season, the Phillies have decided to shut down starter Adam Morgan for the rest of 2015 in what both the pitcher and the team described as a mutual decision. Morgan, who missed all of the 2014 season after shoulder surgery, last pitched on Friday in a 2-1 loss to the Braves. The left-hander went six innings in that game, giving up just two runs on six hits without walking a batter. He breezed through the six innings in 70 pitches, but took the loss. The 25-year-old Atlanta-area native ends the season 5-7 with a 4.48 ERA, with 84 1/3 innings pitched over 15 starts. After his good outing Friday, interim manager Pete Mackanin and other team officials approached the pitcher to ask about his health and the likelihood of taking another start or two. "He wasn't sure whether he should continue or not," Mackanin said. "Basically, the indecision on his part led us to make that decision." Morgan says he feels good, and he wondered about bowing out early. "I don't want to come across as someone who just shuts it down," he said. The deciding factor was trying to get a good head start on 2016. "The innings that I hope to pitch next year aren't going to be affected by two more starts," Morgan said in the clubhouse Sunday after the Phillies dropped their third straight 2-1 game to the Braves, "whether I make them or not." Now, the offseason begins for Morgan, who is expected to compete for a top spot in Philadelphia's rotation next season. He'll begin to consult with physicians, trainers and others soon to get a plan. "I'm excited for all the right reasons. I'm ready to finish this season, get there, start lifting, start woking out, throwing, just to build that arm strength, 'cause I know it's in there," Morgan said. "It's been feeling good. There are no restrictions this offseason. It's getting after it this whole offseason."

Trying Everything! – Pete Mackanin is trying. Hit-and-runs, bunts from guys who don't normally bunt, five infielders, guys in different spots in the field, lineups that have been juggled and re-juggled. Still, the Phillies have struggled. It's enough to get a guy a little down. "You can say that everyone's getting tired, but that doesn't cut it here," Mackanin, the Phillies' interim manager, said on Sunday after his team lost its sixth straight game, this one a third straight 2-1 loss to the Braves. "You've got to learn to play when you're tired." Sunday, the Phillies enjoyed their third straight quality start, this one seven solid innings from Aaron Nola, but still couldn't manage to push across a run when it counted. In fact, Atlanta's Julio Teheran had a perfect game going until Philly's Freddy Galvis -- who was hitting leadoff for just the fourth time this year and playing second base for just the second time this season -- smacked a single to open the seventh. After Teheran walked first baseman Darin Ruf -- subbing for the injured Ryan Howard -- the Phillies seemed to have something going. But it didn't work out. Mackanin called on big catcher Cameron Rupp to bunt, in a by-the-books attempt to move over the runners. Rupp, in an attempt to bunt [he's never had a sacrifice bunt in the Majors], popped up to Teheran and into a double play. "He's a .230 hitter," Mackanin said. "If you're a .230 hitter, I want to move the runners. If he's a .330 hitter, I'm letting him swing. "That's part of the game. They practice it every day, and they're supposed to be able to do it." Rupp stood up after the game and took the heat. "When I was in college [at Texas], we were required to be able to get a bunt down. It's something I'm able to do. I just didn't get it done," he said. "I want to do whatever I can to get the job done. And that's the play there. I need to get it done." Mackanin tried a squeeze play in the seventh inning Friday that didn't work out, when Atlanta reliever Andrew McKirahan scooped Odubel Herrera's bunt with his glove and tossed to the plate to get Chase d'Arnaud. The manager tried a handful of hit-and-runs over the weekend, including one Saturday that helped the Phillies to their only run (which scored on a double-play ground ball). "I'm trying to manufacture something," Mackanin said. "It's just one of those things. It snowballs. You never get a break." In the bottom of the ninth Sunday, after the Phillies finally pushed across a run in the top of the inning to tie the score at 1-1, Mackanin even used right fielder Jeff Francoeur as a fifth infielder with one out and runners on the corners. A.J. Pierzynski poked a soft single to center to win it. "You choose the way you're going to lose the game," Mackanin said. "I'm gonna lose it on a fly ball, I'm not going to lose it on a base hit up the middle."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 56-94. 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 54-49-0 on this day.

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