Sunday, September 27, 2015

Once Again, Phillies Offense Can’t Support Stellar Start

GAME RECAP: Nationals Outlast Phillies 2-1

Bryce Harper's double down the right-field line in the bottom of the 12th inning scored Anthony Rendon and propelled the Nationals to a 2-1 walk-off victory over Philadelphia on Saturday, ending what turned out to be an empty win for Washington. Forty-nine minutes earlier, with the Nationals and Phillies in the top of the 11th, the Mets' win over Cincinnati went final, officially eliminating Washington from postseason contention. "We got games to play," Nationals manager Matt Williams said, when asked about the club's elimination. "We got to win tomorrow. I mean, we're here. We have to play games. We've got some remaining. We want to play well in those games. After the fact, we'll have a chance to look back at it." At Nationals Park, Stephen Strasburg was dominant for the first seven innings, striking out 11 Phillies and allowing only one hit. Given limited run support, that wasn't enough, and Philadelphia rallied for two hits and a run to tie the game in the eighth off the right-hander. Rookie Aaron Nola started opposite Strasburg and pitched well in his own right. He tossed five shutout innings, allowed six hits and struck out five in his 31st professional start of the season. "There isn't much to talk about," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "There wasn't much offense. Nola was outstanding and he worked his way out of that bases-loaded, no-out jam [in the fourth inning]. Great job. The rest of the bullpen did an outstanding job. They kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win the game, but we came up short with our bats."

  • Nola pitched five scoreless innings, working out of a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the fourth inning. He could have pitched more, but the Phillies plan to limit his workload as the season winds down. Nola has pitched 187 innings, including 109 1/3 innings in the Minor Leagues. The Phillies originally said he would pitch about 185 innings. "I feel good," Nola said. "I want to go one more. I want to finish out the season and try to finish it out strong."
  • First baseman Ryan Howard took batting practice again Saturday, but he was not available to pinch-hit. Howard, who has been sidelined since Sept. 14 with a bruised left knee, could rejoin the Phillies next week at Citizens Bank Park.
  • Third baseman Maikel Franco played four innings in an intrasquad game in Clearwater, Fla. He tripled in one of his at-bats. Franco has been on the DL since Aug. 12 with a broken left wrist. He will not play Sunday, but he will play five innings in a Florida instructional league game Monday. He will be re-evaluated then.

The Phillies play their final road game of the season in Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Nationals. Right-hander Aaron Harang (6-15, 4.93 ERA) makes his 28th start of the season in the 1:35 p.m. ET matchup. Gio Gonzalez (11-8, 3.94) will pitch in Sunday's matinee, the last of 19 head-to-head meetings between the Nationals and Phillies this season. Gonzalez is 8-5 with a 2.99 ERA in 15 career starts against Philadelphia.


Sign Of Things To Come – Does Phillies rookie Aaron Nola have one more start in him? It sure looked like it Saturday in Philadelphia's 2-1 loss to the Nationals in 12 innings at Nationals Park, in which Nola got a no-decision. Nola allowed six hits and struck out five in five scoreless innings. He could have pitched longer, but the Phillies are trying to limit his workload. A few weeks ago, the Phillies said they planned to limit Nola to about 185 innings this season, which includes the 109 1/3 innings he pitched in the Minor Leagues. Nola has 187 to this point, with the potential for one more start Friday against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Manager Pete Mackanin said the Philadelphia will make that decision Sunday. "I feel good," said Nola, who threw 67 pitches. "I want to go one more. I want to finish out the season, and try to finish it out strong." Nola has been strong. He is 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts. Nola showed something in the fourth inning when he allowed singles to Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Clint Robinson to load the bases with no outs. He struck out Ian Desmond looking on a 93-mph fastball for the first out. Nola fell behind Demond 2-0, but he came back with a pair of curveballs for strikes. Then, the fastball. Nola got Matt den Dekker to line out to Phillies second baseman Andres Blanco, and he got Wilson Ramos to ground out to third baseman Cody Asche to end the inning. "He's a cool customer," Mackanin said about Nola. "He has great confidence. He's pitching like a Major League pitcher. He shows no fear and he locates his pitches well. That's a sign of a great pitcher: when you get in trouble and can minimize the damage." Nola reflected on his performance: "It definitely helps to experience something like that. I've been in situations in like that before, and had success like tonight [and] got hurt in the past. I kind of know what both ways feels like. The main focus right there is to stay calm and don't over think things, and make good pitches when you need to. "Having been in situations like that and being worked up like that, and then learning from that and being calm and collected, and knowing how my body reacts to those situations helped me tonight." The Phillies fell to 58-97 with the loss. They would need to finish 5-2 to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961. Whether they lose 100 games is inconsequential at this point. The Phillies are almost certain to finish the season with the worst record in baseball. The team just wants to see good signs from enough players that they have reasons to be optimistic about the future. Nola has been one of those good signs. Phillies fans might get a chance to see him one last time Friday -- if the coaching staff thinks it will not hurt him in the long run. Nola certainly would love the opportunity.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 57-97. 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 43-56-1 on this day.

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