Sunday, September 6, 2015

Phillies Pitching Continues To Falter Down The Stretch

GAME RECAP: Red Sox Route Phillies 9-2

David Ortiz went deep, Wade Miley went the distance and the Red Sox relied on a huge inning to secure a 9-2 win over the Phillies on Saturday at Fenway Park. Miley allowed both runs on five hits and tallied eight punchouts in the first complete-game effort of his career, improving his record to 11-10 in the process. The left-hander carried a perfect game into the fifth before Jeff Francoeur ended his bid with a bloop single. "He was just on the attack from the first inning on," said Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo. "A little bit of a hiccup after we had the eight-run inning. There was a little bit of a pause there. But all in all, that was the only time he got nicked up. He was in control of all of his innings, pitch count-wise. A complete effort by him." Ortiz mashed career home run No. 496 around the Pesky Pole in the fourth inning, the slugger's fourth in eight games, to cap off an eight-run outburst by Boston. Phillies rookie Alec Asher faded early in his second Major League start and finished charged with seven runs, eight hits and two balks in 3 2/3 innings. Right-hander Jerome Williams completed 3 1/3 frames of one-run ball in mop-up duty. Catcher Carlos Ruiz provided the only Philly offense with a two-run single in the fifth. "Asher [was] up in the zone. No command of his secondary pitches," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "In his defense, it's his second Major League start, in Fenway Park. So there's something to that. It's a big deal for him."

  • After only giving up one hit in his first time through the Boston order, Asher quickly collapsed in his second go-round, allowing seven of the nine batters he faced to reach base in the fourth. Asher's outing came to an end when Bogaerts cleared the bases and left him still searching for his first career win at 0-2. "I thought the first three innings went really well," Asher said. "I started elevating the ball a little too much that last inning and it came back to hurt me."
  • Coming into the game with the bases loaded and one out, Phillies closer Ken Giles did his best to make the most of a non-save situation by inducing groundouts from Bogaerts, which scored an inherited runner, and Ortiz. It was the 24-year-old's first appearance in seven days. "I wanted to get him in the game," Mackanin said. "That's the best thing that worked out for us, he only threw six pitches and he got some work on the mound."
  • "I've seen Miley before. That's the best I've seen him. He pitches extremely well. Nine innings, worked fast, changed speeds, used both sides of the plate, kept the ball down. He did a great job." – Mackanin.
  • After dropping the weekend series Saturday, the Phillies have a 1-11-2 series record against the Red Sox since 2004, and they have not won a series in Boston since July 1999.
  • Although Mackanin repeated his wish to give Cody Asche a majority of the starts at third base moving forward, he sat him against Red Sox lefty Wade Miley on Saturday. Asche is hitting .237 with just three extra-base hits off southpaws this season. "He'll get the brunt of the playing time. I didn't want to play him against a lefty because he needs to build his confidence back up," Mackanin said.
  • The Double-A Reading Fighting Phils captured their first Eastern League Eastern Division title in 15 years on Thursday night with a 2-1 victory over Binghamton. In addition, Reading catcher Andrew Knapp earned League Player of the Month honors after batting .404 with nine doubles, eight homers and 28 RBIs in August.
  • Red Sox third baseman Pablo Sandoval is day to day with back stiffness. He was a late scratch on Friday and remained out of the starting lineup Saturday.

Phillies rookie Jerad Eickhoff will continue to make his case for the 2016 rotation on Sunday afternoon, when he clashes with fellow first-year starter Eduardo Rodriguez and the Red Sox, who will be seeking a sweep of the three-game series at Fenway Park. All three of Eickhoff's Major League outings have been quality starts. The 25-year-old threw six shutout innings agains the Marlins to win his Aug. 21 debut, and then tossed two solid games against the Mets, allowing three earned runs in back-to-back starts. Through 19 innings, he has fanned 15 and walked only four. Rodriguez faces the Phillies for the first time in his career. The left-hander comes in with a 3.77 ERA over his last seven starts, all but one of which saw him limit the damage to three or fewer earned runs. Opposing players are batting .158 against his changeup this season.


2nd Not As Good As 1stA rookie making his second career start in the historic confines of Fenway Park would be a natural source of excitement for any young player. For Phillies right-hander Alec Asher, the energy of the moment might have had him a little too adrenalized during Saturday's 9-2 loss to the Red Sox. The Boston bats rocked Asher for seven runs on eight hits and two walks over 3 2/3 innings, with an overwhelming majority of that damage coming in his final frame. The first three innings were scoreless and allowed Asher to more or less match his dominant counterpart, Red Sox lefty Wade Miley. But in the fourth inning, seven of nine batters reached base against the 23-year-old, erasing his early excellence and instead leaving him 0-2 to start his big league career. Did his emotions affect the outcome? "There was a little bit," Asher said. "This is a neat park. It still only being my second start, I think there were maybe still a little emotions. But you just try to work past it the best you can." With the game's 4:05 p.m. ET start time, hitters from both clubs had to contend with awkward shadows cast over the infield. Their dissipation coincided with Asher's shaky fourth inning, perhaps also explaining the drastic drop-off in his outing. "The first three innings with the shadow, both sides you could tell they didn't see the ball well," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "Once that shadow got past the mound, then it was a different story and everybody started seeing the ball better." In addition, Asher was called for two balks -- one in which he started and stopped his delivery, and one in which the ball simply fell out of his sweaty hand. Both were possible indicators of what Mackanin called being "overfocused," though Asher maintained that they were simply accidents. "I didn't feel like I balked," Asher said of the first call. "I watched video and there was a little sway." Asher could have stemmed the tides of Boston's scoring in the fourth had he been able to record one more timely out. But he surrendered a couple of hard-hit balls down the foul lines, and ultimately, the rookie accepted the loss as a learning experience and will try to keep from overcomplicating his approach moving forward. "You try to take the human element out of it," Asher said. "You try to just go see what you need to work on, what pitches you execute and go about it like that."

Winter Ball? – With Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco hard-pressed to return from a left wrist fracture before the season ends, interim manager Pete Mackanin would like to see the 23-year-old play in one of the Caribbean Leagues this winter. Franco, who is not expected to resume any baseball activities before he is re-evaluated by doctors on Tuesday, should be counted upon heavily in Philadelphia next season. The Dominican slugger has slashed .277/.340/.490 with 13 home runs and 48 RBIs in 77 games for the Phillies this year. "I think it's always good for players to play winter ball. Especially young players," Mackanin said on Saturday. "The more experience you gain, the better off you're going to be. It makes you a better player. You're going to learn from that." Mackanin speaks from experience, having played for three teams across five seasons in the Venezuelan Winter League. He first joined the league in 1973 as a shortstop for the Leones del Caracas and later returned to manage the Aguilas del Zulia for two seasons, guiding them to a Caribbean Series championship in 1989. He called his experience a fruitful one -- even if he had fruit thrown at him from time to time. "There's certainly a lot of pressure down there," Mackanin said. "You learn how to deal with the pressure because having oranges thrown at you and the occasional bottle when you make an error is a good learning experience, as long as you don't get hurt." In addition to dealing with the nuances of a different league -- Mackanin cited a higher number of pitchers who rely on breaking balls -- he said players can benefit from the leagues' high-energy atmosphere, which offers a taste of the tension faced in the big leagues. "It's all about winning there," Mackanin said. "There's no development. Win, and if you don't play well, you're out. They get rid of you. So that pressure in itself is enough to help you manage the pressure when you get to the big ones. It's valuable as far as I'm concerned."

Third Time’s The Charm – Pete Mackanin has paid his dues. He's 64 years old and in his 47th year of making a living in professional baseball. Is he about to get his due? Mackanin is an interim manager at the big-league level for the third time in his career, this time taking over the Philadelphia Phillies 75 games into the season after Ryne Sandberg stepped down. Mackanin has never been a full-time big-league manager, but perhaps the moment has finally arrived. The Phillies lost 14 of the first 17 games Mackanin managed, but they are 24-20 since, and scouts have been impressed with the energy the Phillies have shown on the field. Mackanin is one of four managers who took over a team in mid-season this year. Craig Counsell's status was never in question. He was given a three-year contract when he took over for Ron Roenicke as manager of the Brewers, a team Counsell grew up around. His father worked on the business side with the Brewers from 1979-87. Roenicke was fired after a 7-18 start that came on the heels of the Brewers losing 25 of their final 34 games last season, falling from first place in the National League Central to eight games out. Miami interim manager Dan Jennings, meanwhile, is likely to return to the general manager's job he held prior to being asked by Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria to take over for ex-manager Mike Redmond after the Marlins' 16-22 start to the season. Jennings initially lobbied to keep Redmond, but then relented and took the job -- even though he had no professional managerial experience. The Marlins are 40-57 since Jennings took over. Mackanin and Pat Murphy, who replaced Bud Black in San Diego, figure to at least get serious consideration to return next year, but no decisions have been made. Murphy is a former college coach who was managing the Padres' Triple-A affiliate in El Paso when Black was fired after a 32-33 start. The Padres are 33-36 since Murphy took over. And then there is Mackanin, who had interim managerial opportunities with the Pirates in 2005 and the Reds in '07. He took over for Lloyd McClendon after a 55-81 start with the Bucs, and the team went 12-14 the rest of the season. Jim Tracy was hired to take over full time in '06. A Reds team that was 31-51 under manager Jerry Narron to open 2007 went 41-37 under Mackanin, but Dusty Baker was hired to manage the team in '08. Will Mackanin now get that chance to be a big league manager without an interim title? Time will tell. First, however, the Phillies will decide on how to restructure the front office. Andy MacPhail will take over as team president in the off season. He has been watching from afar, deciding -- among other things -- whether or not to retain current general manager Ruben Amaro.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 53-83. 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 41-78-0 on this day.

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