Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Phillies Finally Figure One Out Against The Mets

GAME RECAP: Phillies Overpower Mets 14-8

Still their most conspicuous weakness despite several trades to address it, the Mets' bullpen unraveled Tuesday in a 14-8 loss to the Phillies at Citi Field. They retained a 6.5-game NL East lead thanks to the Nationals' subsequent loss to the Cardinals. Bobby Parnell, Eric O'Flaherty and Carlos Torres combined to allow eight runs in the sixth inning of the Mets' first loss in their last 11 meetings with the Phillies. Darin Ruf's two-run single accounted for a chunk of the damage, as well as a large part of his six-RBI game. But the Mets helped things along with two defensive errors, four bases on balls and multiple questionable personnel decisions. "You have to get through the sixth and seventh and you're saying, 'OK, we have a lot of choices now,'" Collins said. "The one thing you can't do is walk people." After Yoenis Cespedes' two-run homer brought the Mets within two of the lead in the bottom of the fifth, manager Terry Collins opted to use Parnell for the first time since Aug. 16, instead of more trusted relievers Sean Gilmartin or Addison Reed. By the end of the inning, the Mets trailed by 10. "We had other options," Collins said. "We certainly could have brought [Erik] Goeddel in tonight. He pitched last night so I wasn't going to put him into that situation. I could have went to Gilmartin. We just had a lefty in there so I thought I'd get a righty in there against that part of the order. He just didn't get it done." Neither starting pitcher performed particularly well, with Jon Niese allowing six runs in five innings and Aaron Harang giving up four runs in 4 2/3. "I wanted to win the game to break the spell," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said of his club's second win in 15 total games against the Mets. "I didn't want to mess around. I wanted to get this one under our belt because they've just had our number all year."

  • Ruf has been a bit of forgotten man among the rest of the team's younger players, but has found himself playing more at first base recently, particularly against left-handed starters. He took advantage, hitting a home run and posting a career-high six RBIs. "I had some good opportunities to drive in some runs and took advantage," Ruf said.
  • The Phillies acquired Darnell Sweeney from the Dodgers in the Chase Utley trade, and so far he has made an impact. He entered the night with two home runs and three RBIs in just 14 at-bats. He then went 2-for-4 with three RBIs in his start against the Mets. "We'll continue to look at him because I like the way he swings the bat," Mackanin said.
  • The Phillies' 14 runs match their most in a game since Opening Day last year 2014 in Texas. Their eight runs in the sixth inning were the most they scored in a single inning since they scored eight in the first inning against the Mets on Sept. 20, 2013.
  • The 22 combined runs between the Mets and Phillies set a Citi Field record, surpassing the 21 runs the Mets and Phillies scored in a 13-8 Philadelphia win on July 19, 2013.
  • The Phillies challenged a call in the second inning, when first-base umpire Phil Cuzzi ruled David Wright safe on a play at first. Cesar Hernandez's throw was high, which pulled Ruf off the bag. But replay showed Ruf tagged Wright with his glove before he reached first. The call was overturned and Wright was out.
  • "Green ink. As long as we win I'll keep using green ink." -- Mackanin, who wrote out Tuesday's lineup card in green ink, hoping to change the Phillies' bad mojo against the Mets.
  • Nola allowed one run in his past two starts, over a total of 15 innings. The righty shut out Miami over eight innings on Aug. 23, then beat the Padres on Friday by surrendering one run over seven innings.
  • Though the Mets and Phillies have played six of their last nine games against each other, neither Harvey nor Nola started any of them.
  • Mets rookie Michael Conforto reached base in 14 of his last 16 games. He's taken the opportunities Mets manager Terry Collins has given him and run with them. Expect him in there again with Nola on the hill.

The Mets and Phillies will finish up their three-game series on Wednesday night as New York sends Matt Harvey (11-7, 2.48 ERA) to the mound while Philadelphia counters with Aaron Nola (5-1, 3.26). Harvey allowed a single run in 27 innings over four August starts, and sports a 0.52 ERA over his last five. Harvey is 5-3 with a 1.34 ERA over his last 12 starts dating back to June 16. That ERA is good for second in the Majors during that stretch, trialing only Zack Greinke. The Phillies have won six of the eight starts Nola has made since his debut July 21.


Going Green – Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin quipped Tuesday afternoon that he used a green marker to fill out the lineup card because, well, he needed to do something to change the Phillies' luck this season against the Mets. Maybe green is good. The Phillies clobbered the Mets on Tuesday night at Citi Field, 14-8. They set season-highs with runs scored in a game and runs scored in an inning, scoring eight runs in the sixth inning. The victory snapped a franchise-high 10-game losing streak to the Mets. They previously lost 10 consecutive games to the Mets from Sept. 1971 to June 1972. "It was a great win to finally beat the Mets," Mackanin said. "Green ink. As long as we win I'll keep using green ink." The victory improved the Phillies to 2-13 against New York this season. But even with a 14-4 lead in the sixth, Mackanin still used his better relief pitchers in the bullpen, including Jeanmar Gomez and Luis Garcia. Why? Because he very badly wanted to win this game. "I wanted to win the game to break the spell," Mackanin said. "I didn't want to mess around. I wanted to get this one under our belt because they've just had our number all year. I managed it to win, and not to look at people." Darin Ruf helped with a career-high six RBIs. Darnell Sweeney had three RBIs, Andres Blanco had two and Jeff Francoeur had one. "We've been made aware of how bad they've handed it to us this year," Ruf said. "Especially with the situation they're in [first place in the National League East], we want to put our best foot forward. Tonight we did."

Embracing The Opportunity – Darin Ruf is no longer one of the kids on the Phillies' roster. He is 29, but for various reasons he has started only 145 games over the past four seasons. He joined the Phillies late in 2012, following a monstrous season with Double-A Reading. He has searched for a place to play ever since, playing a little left field, a little at first base and even some right field whenever the opportunity presented itself. But playing time has come more frequently for Ruf recently, who went 3-for-5 with a three-run home run and a career-high six RBIs in Tuesday night's 14-8 victory over the Mets at Citi Field. It was the first time a Phillies hitter had six or more RBIs in a game since Delmon Young had six on June 28, 2013. "I had some good opportunities to drive in some runs and took advantage," Ruf said. Ruf has started seven of the Phillies' 15 games at first base since Aug. 16, including the only six the Phillies have started against left-handers. He has hit .286 (8-for-28) with one double, three home runs and 11 RBIs in those seven starts. "I've thought that was my role for the last two years," Ruf said about playing against left-handers. "Just because that's who I mainly played against last year when I was healthy. Maybe this year I got a few more opportunities against righties, but for the most part I was in there every day against lefties. I've just really focused on taking advantage when I'm in there against lefties. I've been lucky to play well when I have been in there." It sounds like Ruf will continue to start against left-handers the rest of the season, too. Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin has talked with Ryan Howard about his playing time, telling the slugger he plans to play him predominantly against right-handers the rest of the way. Howard's .621 OPS against left-handers from 2012-15 is 231st out of 253 qualified hitters in baseball. He has a .443 OPS in 101 plate appearances against them this season. But could it mean anything for next season? Howard is signed through 2016. He will make $25 million in salary, plus he will earn a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option. The Phillies have tried to trade him, but found little to no interest before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline. Because the Phillies have no first base prospects knocking on the door, it is not a stretch to think Howard and Ruf could share time at first base next season, too. "That's not a bad option," Mackanin said. "That's a question for the future and probably not for me, that's for sure," Ruf said. "Anyway I can get a job, I'll take it."

Off To Arizona – One of the best prospects to come through the Phillies' system in over a decade will be joining six other Phillies' Minor Leaguers in the Arizona Fall League. Double-A Reading shortstop J.P. Crawford will play for the Glendale Desert Dogs. Crawford is the No. 5 prospect in baseball, according to MLBPipeline. He is the No. 1 prospect in the organization. The 20-year-old is hitting .270 (88-for-326) with 20 doubles, seven triples, five home runs, 33 RBIs and a .781 OPS in 80 games. He missed a few weeks at the beginning of the season because of a strained left oblique. Also on the Desert Dogs are catcher Andrew Knapp, outfielder Dylan Cozens and pitchers Nick Pivetta, Tom Windle, Edubray Ramos and Yacksel Rios. Knapp, 23, is the No. 18 prospect in the organization, according to MLBPipeline. He is hitting .367 (73-for-199) with 21 doubles, two triples, 10 home runs, 53 RBIs and a 1.065 OPS in 51 games with Reading. He and Jorge Alfaro are the top two catching prospects in the organization. Alfaro is the No. 64 prospect in baseball and the No. 5 prospect in the organization. Cozens, 21, is a prospect with power potential. He has a combined .758 OPS with the GCL Phillies, Class A Advanced Clearwater and Reading. Pivetta, 22, joined the Phillies in the Jonathan Papelbon trade. He is 2-2 with a 7.31 ERA in six starts with Reading. Windle, 23, joined the Phillies in the Jimmy Rollins trade. He has transitioned from a starter to a reliever this season. He has a 1.52 ERA in 18 appearances with Reading since moving into the bullpen. Ramos, 22, went 4-5 with a 2.02 ERA in 45 appearances with Clearwater and Reading. Rios, 22, went 6-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 22 appearances (10 starts) with Clearwater.

And Now The Waiting Game – The Phillies have turned one of the weakest Minor League systems in baseball into arguably one of the best in a little less than nine months. They traded Cole Hamels, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Jonathan Papelbon, Ben Revere, Marlon Byrd, Jake Diekman and Antonio Bastardo for a combined 14 prospects, including three that rank among the top 64 in baseball, according to They have three other prospects in the Top 100, which is why MLBPipeline says the Phillies have the No. 7 system in baseball. Could it help bring back Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., whose contract expires after the season? "No decision has been made on Ruben at this point," Phillies president Pat Gillick told in a telephone interview Tuesday evening. "We just got by the Trade Deadline. Consequently, we're moving a lot of people in the Minor Leagues from [Jerad] Eickhoff to [Alec] Asher and others. We've had our hands full. It's a decision that will be made in the next 30 days or so." Gillick is stepping down after the season and Andy MacPhail is taking his place. MacPhail is not granting interviews, so he did not comment for this story. But certainly MacPhail, Gillick and the rest of Phillies ownership, including the very visible John Middleton, will be involved in the final assessment. "It's going to be an organizational decision," Gillick said. Gillick has repeatedly said he has confidence in Amaro. He said Amaro handled himself as expected before both Trade Deadlines. Asked if he thinks Amaro should be back next year, Gillick said, "I've always said he's smart, he's confident. He didn't all of a sudden get dumb. I've said that a number of times. We had four bad years. We had three good years before that. Unfortunately, people just remember what you did yesterday. It's like any business. It's a tough business." Of course, many fans would like to see a new general manager, which could influence ownership or MacPhail or both. Gillick said fan sentiment is "certainly a small part" of the decision-making process. "The fans are customers, so you can't ignore the customers," Gillick said. "There has to be weight put on the fans. That isn't where the heavy weight is going. The fans play a part, but we're not going to make a decision based on what the fan sentiment is from one day to the next. I think the fan perception about Ruben from July 1 through this date has changed dramatically. I think the fans in Philadelphia are very knowledgeable. I think the fans know we've got a plan. And I think the fans know we're headed in the right direction. I think that really bodes well for Ruben. "There are some good things happening with the Phillies. Consequently, if I was Andy I would just say, evaluate, take your time, somewhere along the line you might want to make an adjustment, but overall we've got a good group." The Phillies certainly are not rushing the announcement, even with the Angels, Mariners, Brewers and Red Sox already looking for general managers. "Not particularly with the general manager, but just on everything I think we move a little bit slower and hopefully we're a little bit more considerate in making our decisions," Gillick said. "We contemplate a little more than other people." But now that the non-waiver and waiver Trade Deadlines have passed, what more can Amaro do to prove himself? Is there anything new anybody can learn about Amaro between now and the moment they make a decision? "My focus is on the organization and what we need to do to take the next step forward," Amaro said Tuesday. "Are we going to be a contending team next year? I think that's a stretch. Should we be thinking about ways to continue to build the organization, so in 2017 we're starting to creep that way? It's about continuing to develop the young players we have. How long will it take? Who knows? But that's the goal." Amaro said he is excited for the future. But will he be part of it? "I'm obviously hopeful," Amaro said.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 53-80. 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 62-53-0 on this day.

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