Friday, September 25, 2015

Phillies Offense Silent Behind Stellar Start

GAME RECAP: Marlins Blank Phillies 1-0

The Marlins made the most of the few hits they were able to get off Alec Asher on Thursday night. J.T. Realmuto's RBI triple in the seventh inning was the only production Miami needed to edge the Phillies, 1-0, at Marlins Park. Six Marlins pitchers combined for the club's 12th shutout of the season. Jarred Cosart, who threw four shutout innings, was replaced in the fifth inning. In the fourth inning, he was struck on the left forearm by a Cody Asche comeback liner. A.J. Ramos picked up his 29th save when Miguel Rojas made an over-the-shoulder catch to end the game. "We didn't have that many hits, but we had the right hits," Marlins manager Dan Jennings said. "The bullpen came in and picked up five innings. I thought they were outstanding all the way through. Really a fundamentally sound game." Miami was limited to one hit, a first-inning single from Christian Yelich, before they broke through in the seventh inning. Derek Dietrich reached on an infield single with one out in the seventh, and he scored on Realmuto's triple to right-center. A chance for Miami to tack on a second run was wiped out when right fielder Brian Bogusevic threw out Realmuto at the plate. Realmuto tagged on Rojas' fly ball to short right. Asher gave up just three hits in seven innings, but Miami was able to claim two of three in the series. "I think some of the guys are fatigued," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, referring to an offense that has suffered five one-run losses in the past six games. "Even though they're young … I think everybody is getting tired. The more you lose, the more beat up you feel."

  • Asher had waited a long time to show the Phillies he could pitch like this. He allowed three hits, one run, one walk and struck out four in seven innings for the best start of his five-start career. Before Thursday, Asher, whom the Phillies acquired in July in the Cole Hamels trade, had not pitched more than 5 2/3 innings or allowed fewer than four runs in a start. Asher hopes his final start of the season on Wednesday against the Mets can match this one. "I feel like with each start I've taken I've kind of built more confidence," Asher said. "That was the main thing coming into this game. I said I'm just going to go back to pitching my game and attack hitters and not give them too much credit."
  • The Marlins won a challenge in the fourth inning after Yelich initially was called out on a close play at first. Yelich tapped a routine grounder that second baseman Andres Blanco bobbled before throwing to first. It took just 36 seconds for the call to be overturned.
  • Mackanin said injured first baseman Ryan Howard could take fielding and batting practice this weekend in Washington. Howard has been sidelined for more than a week with a bruised left knee. He will need to get going if he expects to play again before the end of the season.
  • The Phillies need to finish the season 6-3 to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961.
  • Phillies infielder Freddy Galvis is hitting .245 with a homer and eight RBIs against the Nationals this year.
  • Outfielder Odubel Herrera is having a great year for Philadelphia, hitting .291 with eight homers and 40 RBIs.
  • Right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will likely pitch his last game at Nationals Park as a member of the Nationals. He will be a free agent after the season.

The Nationals will try to stay alive in the National League East race as they face the Phillies in a three-game series at Nationals Park. The last time the two teams faced each other was last week in Philadelphia, with Washington sweeping the series. Bryce Harper carried the team during that series, hitting four home runs. Harper's best game came Sept. 15 in Philadelphia. Not only did he go deep twice and drive in all of Washington's runs in a 4-0 win, but he put himself in the Nats' record book, eclipsing Adam Dunn for most home runs in a season by a left-handed hitter in franchise history. Dunn hit 38 homers in 2009 and '10. Harper will face Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who is on a roll. The rookie has allowed one earned run in 14 innings over his last two starts. Remove a Sept. 6 start in Boston when he allowed four runs in six innings and Eickhoff has a 1.91 ERA.


Asher Shows Improvement – Phillies rookie Alec Asher had waited a long time to show the Phillies he could pitch like this. He put together a solid performance Thursday night in a 1-0 loss to the Marlins at Marlins Park. He allowed three hits, one run, one walk and struck out four in seven innings, making it the best start of his five-start career. Oh, he also picked up two hits, including the Phillies' only extra-base hit of the game. "I feel like with each start I've taken, I've kind of built more confidence," Asher said. "That was the main thing coming into this game. I said I'm just going to go back to pitching my game and attack hitters and not give them too much credit." He entered the night with a 9.78 ERA. He left with a 7.52 ERA. Asher, whom the Phillies acquired in July as part of the Cole Hamels trade, makes his final start of the season Wednesday night against the National League East-leading Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He hopes to carry Thursday night's success through that start and pack his bags for the offseason feeling better about Spring Training 2016. "You want to finish strong," Asher said. "That's the main goal. I know I've started 0-5. I don't want to start my career like that, but there's nothing I can do about those past games. But take the two here and finish strong." Asher had allowed just one hit through six innings when Marlins third baseman Derek Dietrich hit a slow roller up the third-base line for a single. Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto followed with a triple to score Dietrich for the game's only run. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he thought Asher looked more confident from the first inning. "As poor as his numbers are, it shows me a lot that he came out there like he had a purpose," Mackanin said. "That's what the whole deal is about when you get to the big leagues. Either you fight and you make it, or you give up. Obviously, he's not giving up. He's going after it. That was the thing I saw tonight." Asher figures to be in the mix for a rotation job come Spring Training, with Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff favorites for two spots. It is expected the Phillies will sign at least a couple of veteran starters to fill holes, which might leave Asher battling Adam Morgan, David Buchanan and others for the No. 5 job. "Some guys it takes longer for them to feel comfortable and I'm hoping that's the case with Asher," Mackanin said. "He looked very comfortable and he looked aggressive out there, like he was in charge."

Who Wins The Leg Lamp? – For the first time in a long time it seems the Phillies had multiple candidates to win the Paul Owens Awards. The Phillies on Thursday named catcher Andrew Knapp and right-hander Ricardo Pinto as their Minor League player and pitcher of the year, respectively. Knapp, 23, hit .308 with 35 doubles, 13 home runs, 84 RBIs and an .876 OPS in 118 games with Class A Clearwater and Double-A Reading. Pinto, 21, went 15-4 with a 2.97 ERA in 24 starts with Class A Lakewood and Clearwater. "We are extremely proud of these young men," Phillies player development director Joe Jordan said in a statement. "They are both very deserving." It should be interesting to watch Knapp continue to develop, considering the Phillies just acquired catcher Jorge Alfaro from Texas in the Cole Hamels trade. It gives the Phillies two legitimate frontline catching prospects. Alfaro is the Phillies' No. 4 prospect and No. 61 prospect nationally, according to Knapp ranks No. 17 in the organization. But Knapp, whom the Phillies selected in the second round of the 2013 Draft, clearly raised his game in Reading. He hit .360 with 21 doubles, 11 home runs, 56 RBIs and a 1.050 OPS in 55 games. He got a hit in 46 of those games, including 24 multi-hit games. "He's an aggressive hitter and the strike zone gets a little bit smaller as you move up and the umpires get better," Reading manager Dusty Wathan said Thursday, when asked about Knapp's surge in Reading. "He stopped swinging at balls down and out of the zone. I think that got him in trouble in Clearwater. He's got tremendous hand-eye coordination. You put that together with bat speed and it's a good combination." Knapp projects as an average defensive catcher, although the Phillies think he can improve. He had Tommy John surgery in 2013, so he has caught only 157 games professionally. "To be where he is in Double-A says a lot about how much he has come along," Wathan said. "His bat is in front of his defense, but I think he's improved a lot since I saw him halfway through the season. We project him as more of an offensive catcher, but you always get a little better defensively as you go." Much of the attention this season has focused on pitching prospects like Aaron Nola, Jake Thompson, Zach Eflin, Ben Lively and others. Pinto has flown under the radar a bit by everybody except the Phillies. "Coming into the year, very few people outside of our organization knew of Ricardo Pinto," Jordan said. "Based on his 2015 performance, that has certainly changed. Ricardo is one of our most talented young arms, but equally one of our most determined, competitive and driven players." Pinto signed as an amateur free agent in Dec. 2011. He has a 2.77 ERA in 62 career Minor League appearances. Dallas Green Award: The Phillies named international scouting director Sal Agostinelli their 2015 Dallas Green Award winner. The award honors an amateur or professional scout who "best exemplifies the Phillies' standard for scouting while demonstrating the same loyalty, work ethic, dedication and passion as the award's namesake." Agostinelli has been with the Phillies since 1993. He was the international scouting supervisor for 15 years before being named to his current position in 2012. He has been involved in signing players like Carlos Ruiz, Maikel Franco, Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis. "I'm flattered and I can't believe it," Agostinelli said. "Dallas Green is such a special guy to me and my family."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 57-96. 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 53-48-0 on this day.

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