Monday, September 28, 2015

Phillies Rally Against Papelbon And Nationals

GAME RECAP: Phillies Shock Nationals 12-5

The Phillies posted eight runs in the ninth inning to cap a rally from two runs down and take Sunday's rubber game, 12-5, from the Nationals at Nationals Park. Nats closer Jonathan Papelbon started the inning and allowed five runs (two earned) on one hit and two walks. Just a few minutes prior, Washington's television broadcast picked up Papelbon and star right fielder Bryce Harper engaging in a verbal and then physical altercation. "Well, certainly there is a lot of testosterone flowing among young men competing," Nats manager Matt Williams said. "What I can tell you is this, this is a family issue and we'll deal with it that way." Harper was removed from the game in the top half of the next inning, but Papelbon, who recorded one out in the eighth, stayed in and allowed five of the eight runs that Philadelphia scored in the frame. The final six runs of the inning were unearned. "I'm never going to say that because I went out there and gave up some runs that it's anything other than me not pitching to my capabilities," Papelbon said. "I really went out there and didn't locate my fastball and fell behind on hitters. Any time you do that, the outcome is usually not going to be good. But [the scuffle] didn't affect how I pitched, no." With the game tied at 2 in the seventh, Ian Desmond and Matt den Dekker both collected their third hits of the afternoon and scored, temporarily giving the Nationals a two-run edge. The Phils responded, though, as Aaron Altherr doubled to start the eighth inning and Jeff Francoeur tied the game two batters later with his 13th home run of the season. Gio Gonzalez and Aaron Harang started the matinee, and neither pitcher factored into the decision. Gonzalez started the sixth but couldn't record an out and Harang pitched through the inning. "I hit that one pretty good," said Phillies second baseman Andres Blanco, who hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the ninth against Papelbon. "I didn't expect the ball to go that far. Fortunately, it did. I'm happy."

  • Francoeur had been in a major slump entering the series finale, hitting .042 (1-for-24) with one walk and 15 strikeouts in his previous 11 games. But he singled and doubled against Gonzalez before hitting a game-tying two-run homer in the eighth inning. It was his first homer since Aug. 19. "It's about time Frenchy did something," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said with a laugh. "We were all over him. I asked him to try to do a little better today, and he did."
  • Phillies center fielder Altherr made a spectacular catch to end the bottom of the eighth inning. Clint Robinson lined a ball to left-center field, but Altherr pursued and got some serious hang time to make the grab. Mackanin said it could be the catch of the year, although Angels outfielder Mike Trout probably earned that title Saturday when he climbed the wall to rob a home run. "He's got me on that one," Altherr said about Trout's catch. "That's a home run. Mine would have just been a double. He gets me on that. … I started closing in on it and just tried to stretch out a little further and dive for it. It just happened to go in my glove."
  • "I don't want to go there. I'm happy we won. … I don't have any grudge about anything. I got enough to worry about with this team. I'm not allowing myself to go anywhere else."
    -- Mackanin, who stayed diplomatic when asked if it felt more special to beat Papelbon in the ninth inning.
  • The Phillies' eight runs in the ninth inning matched a season high. They scored eight runs against the Mets in the sixth inning on Sept. 1.
  • First baseman Ryan Howard is expected to be available to play as early as Tuesday against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He has not played since Sept. 14 because of a bruised left knee. "He'll get back on the field at some point before the end of the year," Proefrock said. Third baseman Maikel Franco has been on the DL since Aug. 12 with a broken left wrist. He is scheduled to play five innings Monday in a Florida instructional league game. If that goes well, Proefrock said, "[Franco will] be back in Philly before the end of the season as well."
  • Outfielder Domonic Brown has not played since Sept. 2 because of a concussion. He is going to play in some instructional league games before he can be cleared, but he will not rejoin the Phillies before the end of the season. It could be the end of his Phillies' career. He is eligible for salary arbitration after the season and the Phillies could non-tender him.
  • Buchanan, who posted a 9.11 ERA and nearly as many walks (24) as strikeouts (26) through his first 11 starts, is looking to close his season on a high note. Buchanan's last two outings have been his best of the year, with just three earned runs in 11 innings. He has eight strikeouts and two walks over that stretch.
  • Colon has feasted on the bottom of the NL East all summer, going 12-2 with a 2.81 ERA against the Phillies, Marlins and Braves, and just 2-10 with a 6.48 ERA against everyone else. Tuesday will mark Colon's seventh consecutive start against one of those three teams; not surprisingly, he owns a 1.65 ERA over that stretch.
  • The Mets may spend this entire series without infielder Juan Uribe, who has not played since aggravating a chest injury Friday in Cincinnati. The team is unsure if Uribe will be healthy enough to play when the NLDS begins Oct. 9.

Even with seven bench players in their lineup on Sunday, the Mets dominated the Reds a day after clinching the National League East title on their turf. Perhaps that's a sign of things to come for a team that is hardly ignoring the challenge of attaining home-field advantage in the NL Division Series. The Mets will shift back to a more traditional lineup when they begin a three-game series Tuesday with the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Though manager Terry Collins will rest plenty of players between now and the end of the regular season, he also plans on widening the small lead his team has opened over Los Angeles in the race for home-field advantage. The Phillies, meanwhile, will spend this week trying to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961. Right-hander David Buchanan will start Tuesday's opener for them opposite Bartolo Colon, who shifted forward in the rotation to accommodate Jon Niese's move to the bullpen.


Blanco Provides Spark – The Phillies left Nationals Park on Sunday afternoon positively giddy. Gee, wonder why? Second baseman Andres Blanco hit a go-ahead two-run home run against Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon in the ninth inning of an eventual 12-5 victory. The blast sparked an eight-run rally for a team that has struggled to score runs for weeks. "The ninth was pretty special, man," said right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who hit a game-tying two-run homer in the eighth. "That was a lot of fun. You dream about those innings when you just blow it wide open." But it felt a little sweeter coming against Papelbon, who got into a physical altercation with teammate Bryce Harper in the Nationals' dugout in the bottom of the eighth. The skirmish involving their former teammate and its aftermath had the Phillies' clubhouse abuzz afterward. Papelbon criticized the Phillies for more than two years before they traded him to Washington in July. His criticisms continued earlier this month in Philadelphia when he said, "I was one of the few that wanted to actually win [in Philadelphia] and I was one of the few that competed and posted up every day." The comments did not sit well with the Phillies, who signed him to a four-year, $50 million contract in November 2011. "Yeah, absolutely," Francoeur said, when asked if Papelbon's comments added to the enjoyment of the victory. "That's always nice. But not to mention he's one of the better closers in the game." Papelbon said Sunday he did not mean to disparage his teammates. "Those comments really weren't about the players," Papelbon said. "It was more along the lines about the front office creating a winning environment, and that wasn't done. That's why I was frustrated and said from top to bottom. Those players in that clubhouse did everything they could to create a winning environment. It just wasn't allowed to happen. "But I think any time you can play against an old teammate ... I know Frenchy is trying to get me every time he's out there. You want to have those bragging rights. I get that part of it." The Phillies won two of three from the Nationals. They return home for the final six games of the season with a three-game series against the Mets beginning Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. It has been a rough go lately as the Phillies have lost 23 of their last 32 games, but they hope to finish strong. Maybe a big victory against Papelbon and the Nationals can spark them. "I challenged them all: you're playing for a job next year," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "You have to show that you're competitive, that you're a positive guy, that you're high energy. I challenged them to show that even in the worst circumstances that we're under, losing night after night. These guys have responded -- a good example was today. They came alive late in the game."

Shut Down! – Phillies rookie Aaron Nola hoped to make one more start in 2015, but the club announced Sunday he will not pitch again this season. Nola threw 187 innings, including 77 2/3 with the Phillies. He threw about 172 innings last season, which included his time in college at LSU. Phillies interim general manager Scott Proefrock said next season "the governor will be off and he'll be ready to go and pitch throughout the course of the whole season, hopefully." Nola went 6-2 with a 3.59 ERA in 13 starts, which included five scoreless innings Saturday against the Nationals. "It's time to get ready for next year," Nola said. "I agree with [the decision]. As a competitor, of course, I don't want to stop. I want to finish the year, but throwing a lot of innings was helpful for me this year. I want to add onto that next year, especially at this level. I'm going to work the hardest to do that." Nola will return to Baton Rouge, La., for the offseason. He will begin his offseason training program in a few weeks, although he will give his arm a break for the next couple of months. He wants to be ready to go in Spring Training. "It's going to be a competitive spring," Nola said. "I expect it to be a competitive spring because I know it will be. Nothing is really given to you and I want to earn it." Nola is correct to say nothing is guaranteed, but he is the safest bet to make the 2016 rotation, assuming he is healthy. He pitched well. He showed promise. He lived up to the hype following his selection with the seventh pick in the 2014 Draft. "He did everything we could've expected and more," Proefrock said. "He showed why he was drafted where he was drafted and how highly regarded he was. He's made a very favorable impression on all of us. So hopefully he can be a big part of what we want to do here in the future." "I learned a lot at this level," Nola said. "I experienced a lot that I never experienced. I learned a lot from a lot of veteran guys here." He said he will look to fine tune his changeup in the offseason to give him a more effective third pitch. "As a starter you definitely have to have more than two pitches," said Nola, who also throws a fastball and curveball. "Having a third pitch really helps and gets them thinking. Especially at this level because these guys are smart. There's a lot of veteran hitters and they've seen a lot of guys. They've had a lot of at-bats." The Phillies will use the bullpen to pitch Friday's game against the Marlins.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 58-97. 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 42-50-0 on this day.

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