Thursday, September 17, 2015

Phillies Crushed By Werth And Nationals

GAME RECAP: Nationals Sweep Phillies 12-2

Jayson Werth showed Wednesday night that you can come home again. Once a World Series hero with the Phillies, Werth hit two home runs and helped the Nationals roll past the Phillies, 12-2, at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals swept the three-game series and find themselves on a four-game winning streak. In the seventh, Bryce Harper added himself to the record books by becoming the second player in Nationals history to hit 40 home runs in a season. Harper became the seventh different player to hit 40 homers in his age 22 season or younger. "It's been remarkable. He has been fun to watch," Werth said about Harper. "I'm proud of him. He has come a long way in a short period of time. I can't say enough good things about him. He has become a superstar right in front of our eyes. But I think he has a lot to learn and long way to go, too." The Nationals gained ground for the second straight day in the National League East race. They are now 7 1/2 games behind the Mets. "I always feel good about our club," Nationals manager Matt Williams said. "I feel confident in anybody that we put in there. We have to continue to play well if we are going to have a chance. It starts tomorrow." The Nationals went to work on Phillies right-hander Alec Asher in the second inning. Werth scored the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Jose Lobaton. Werth then added to the lead two innings later by hitting a solo home run over the left-field wall. The Phillies tied the score in the bottom of the fourth when Darin Ruf hit a two-run homer off lefty Gio Gonzalez, who ended up having a quality start. He pitched seven innings, allowed the two runs on five hits and had a career-high 12 strikeouts -- the 13th time in his career he has reached double-digit strikeouts in a game. "Congratulations to Bryce on his 40th. That's unbelievable. J-Dub [Werth] was unbelievable. Everybody in the lineup helped out a lot," Gonzalez said. "A big credit goes to my catcher [Lobaton]. He mixed it up. He just increased confidence and just slowed it down for me." Asher went five innings and allowed four runs on seven hits. The Nationals added two runs on RBI hits from Anthony Rendon and Yunel Escobar, then scored eight runs against the Phillies' bullpen. In the sixth inning, Werth highlighted the scoring with another solo homer. The last time Werth had a multi-homer game was July 22, 2013.

  • It has been a rough time for the rookie right-hander Asher since the Phillies promoted him from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is 0-4 with a 9.78 ERA in four starts. Wednesday night he allowed seven hits, four runs, one walk, one home run and struck out four in just five innings. "Failure is part of the game," Asher said. "It's frustrating. No one likes losing. I hate it. I'm trying to shorten the learning curve, learn a lot of things and get better."
  • Ruf hit a two-run homer to left field in the fourth inning. It was his eighth homer of the season. Ruf is playing regularly at first while Ryan Howard is sidelined with a bruised left knee. If both are back next season, they could be platooning at the position. "We've got a lot of young guys that haven't played 162 before," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. "It's something you've got to learn to get used to."
  • The Phillies were swept for the 12th time this season, which matches the Braves for the most in baseball this year.
  • The Phillies challenged Ian Desmond's stolen base in the top of the second inning. Second-base umpire Tim Welke ruled Desmond safe, although replays showed Phillies second baseman Andres Blanco tagged out Desmond before his foot hit the bag. The call was overturned.
  • In the fifth inning, Escobar was thrown out at the plate by center fielder Aaron Altherr. But Williams challenged the call and after one minute, 47 seconds, the replay confirmed that Escobar was out.
  • Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco and first baseman Ryan Howard are injured, but both expect to play again this season. Franco definitely won't be back in time to face the Braves. Howard probably won't, either. Franco is recovering from a broken left wrist in Clearwater, Fla. Howard is still hobbling because of a bruised left knee.
  • The Braves snapped a 12-game home losing streak Tuesday with a victory over the Blue Jays. The Elias Sports Bureau said only five teams since 1969 had lost more than 12 consecutive games at home, the last being the 2002 Mets, who lost 15 consecutive games at Shea Stadiuim.

Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan gets the opportunity to pitch at home Friday night in the series opener against the Braves at Turner Field. Morgan is 5-6 with a 4.60 ERA in 14 starts in his rookie season, including a 4.50 ERA in two starts against the Braves. Morgan grew up in nearby Marietta, Ga., about 30 minutes north of Turner Field. He pitched at Turner Field on July 3, allowing two runs in seven innings. The Phillies will face right-hander William Perez (5-6, 5.36 ERA). He earned the win against the Phillies on Sept. 7, when he allowed two runs in seven innings at Citizens Bank Park.


More Injury Updates – Two of the Phillies' best power hitters hope to be back in the lineup before the end of the season. Rookie third baseman Maikel Franco has been sidelined since Aug. 12 with a broken left wrist. He will travel to Clearwater, Fla., on Thursday to begin working out at Carpenter Complex. If his rehab goes well, he could rejoin the Phillies as early as Tuesday in Miami. "I'm excited because now I'm almost close to playing again. I'm happy for that," Franco said Wednesday afternoon. Franco has been taking swings and said while he is not 100 percent healthy he feels better every day. The Phillies have said they will not play Franco until he is completely healthy. But Franco has incentive. Teammate Jeff Francoeur told Franco that if he hits 15 home runs this season he would buy him a couple of suits. "I want to do it," he said. Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard has a bruised left knee, which needed to be drained because of swelling. An MRI exam showed no structural damage, but he had his knee wrapped Wednesday. He might not travel with the team Thursday to Miami. But Howard said he expects to play at some point. "Yeah, I'm confident," Howard said. "I'm not going to do anything crazy. Now it's just a matter of getting the swelling and stuff out and go from there. Elvis Araujo has been on the DL since Aug. 28 with a strained left groin. He threw a bullpen session Wednesday. He will travel to Clearwater on Thursday. He will rehab there in preparation to pitch in winter ball, if he is healthy. Cesar Hernandez had surgery on Wednesday morning on his dislocated left thumb. His season is over, and his recovery could be around three months. But he is expected to be ready to play by Spring Training.

Learning The Hard Way – Alec Asher has found the big leagues anything but easy since he joined the Phillies on Aug. 30. His teammates know the feeling. Asher is 0-4 with a 9.78 ERA in four starts, his latest coming Wednesday night in a 12-2 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. The Nationals swept the series as Asher allowed seven hits, four runs, one walk, one home run and struck out four in five innings. Asher has not pitched more than 5 2/3 innings in any of his starts. He has not allowed fewer than four runs. "Failure is part of the game," Asher said. "It's frustrating. No one likes losing. I hate it. I'm trying to shorten the learning curve, learn a lot of things and get better." The Phillies fell to 56-91. They need to finish 7-8 to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961, when they lost 107. "It's not like we had a real good team and all of a sudden fell apart," said Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin, when asked if players might be pressing to avoid 100 losses. "This is a day-to-day experiment. A lot of young guys are getting opportunities. We're learning a lot about them, and that's very important for next year." Asher's struggles illustrate the organization's need to acquire more starting pitching. There figures to be just one lock for the 2016 rotation: rookie right-hander Aaron Nola. Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff and left-hander Adam Morgan have lines on jobs for next season, but other than that it seems clear the Phillies will need to sign some pitching in the offseason. Free agents like Doug Fister, J.A. Happ and Ryan Vogelsong could be placeholders until Minor League talents like Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin are ready for prime time. Asher will be in the mix, but he needs to pitch much better than he has pitched so far. But the Phillies need to hit better, too. They struck out a franchise-record 42 times in the three-game series. It is the first time the Phillies have struck out 13 or more times in three consecutive games since 1915, according to Baseball-Reference. The Phillies are struggling without Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Ryan Howard in the lineup because of injuries, but Mackanin sees another reason the Phillies can't seem to hit. "All of these [players] haven't played this deep into a season," Mackanin said. "It's getting to them a little bit, and they've got to learn to get over that hump. A lot of slow bats. We're not hitting the fastball like we're capable of doing." Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp agreed. "We've got a lot of young guys that haven't played 162 before," he said. "It's something you've got to learn to get used to. Some of the pitching staffs we've faced in our division … they've got guys that can pitch and we've got a young lineup. It's definitely not easy getting in that box every night."

No Limit Nola – Aaron Nola's magic number might not be any number at all. The Phillies have said for some time they planned to limit Nola's workload this season to 185 innings, but as he enters Sunday's start against the Braves at Turner Field with 175 innings they could be reconsidering. After all, 185 is an arbitrary number. "I've been trying to get my hands around that for a couple of days," Phillies interim general manager Scott Proefrock said, "just to figure out what we can do and what makes sense. I read an article the other day that talked about Tommy John, and this obviously doesn't apply to Aaron, but they were saying Tommy John was told by Dr. [Frank] Jobe, 'Go by how it feels, by how your arm feels.' "At this point, there's no indication that there's any reason or necessity to limit them other than what we've set. And I think we're just going to play it by how they feel going forward. We'll see." Nola is scheduled to make three more starts: Sunday in Atlanta, Sept. 27 in Washington and Oct. 4 in the season finale against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. Nola has said repeatedly his arm feels strong, so perhaps the Phillies let him pitch a little more than 185 innings. Then again, maybe not. "We'll just see how it plays out," Proefrock said.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 56-91. 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 55-49-0 on this day.

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