Monday, September 7, 2015

Red Sox Sweep Phillies As Ortiz Closes In On 500

GAME RECAP: Red Sox Sweep Phillies 6-2

Call it deja vu for David Ortiz. The slugger went deep again Sunday afternoon, inching closer to the 500-homer mark, and drove in three to back Eduardo Rodriguez's impressive start as the Red Sox swept the Phillies, 6-2, at Fenway Park. Ortiz, who also homered Saturday, smoked a two-run shot to right -- his 497th home run -- in the first for a 2-0 lead, though he later exited the game with right calf tightness and is day to day. Jackie Bradley Jr. added a two-run triple in a four-run fourth, his sixth extra-base hit in seven games, and Rodriguez spun seven strong innings of one-run ball in Boston's second three-game sweep. "He controlled his pitch counts, he was on the attack -- great outing [that] kind of set the tone for us to do some things offensively," Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo said of Rodriguez. Rodriguez is 3-0 with a 1.73 ERA over his last four starts, but Lovullo said the southpaw has an innings limit, which could mean shorter outings for the rest of the season. Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, the third rookie trotted out by the Phillies in the series, surrendered six runs, eight hits and a pair of walks over four innings in his first real stumbling block. He had recorded quality starts in each of his first three Major League outings. The Phillies are 3-10 in their past 13 games, and their starters own a Major League-high 6.31 ERA on the road in 2015.

  • The 25-year-old labored mightily through the second and needed 44 pitches to finish the inning. Even after he erased a leadoff double by catching Rusney Castillo trying to swipe third, Eickhoff's shaky command opened the door for Boston to plate four runs on five hits in the frame. Bradley authored the biggest blow when he smacked a 2-2 fastball to right for a triple. Eickhoff settled down somewhat after that, working a perfect four-pitch third inning and a scoreless fourth. "I think I just got back to what makes me good as a pitcher," Eickhoff said. "Just located my fastball a little better. I think I got away from that [early]. I kind of started hot and heavy. But the last two innings I got back to that, what I do best." "These young guys, they're taking their lumps," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "But that's what this year's about and that's what the first time through the big leagues, you got to fine-tune it a little bit and get over the experience of being here for the first time."
  • Although the Phillies' offense remained largely dormant, center fielder Odubel Herrera stayed hot by recording his third multihit performance in six games, which raised his average above .300 for the first time since May 3. His .302 mark is the Phillies' best among qualified hitters. "What a Rule 5 [Draft] pick, Herrera. Boy is he fun to watch," Mackanin said. "And he's over .300 now. Playing super defense. I don't know if it was [pro scouting director] Mike Ondo, but somebody did a heck of a job getting that guy."

Right-hander Aaron Harang (5-14, 4.89 ERA) takes the mound as the Phils begin a 10-game homestand at Citizens Bank Park, starting with Monday's 7:05 p.m. ET series opener against the Braves. Harang hasn't won since he last faced Atlanta on July 30, when he allowed one run over five innings. He carries a 0.95 ERA in three starts against the club this season. 


Learning Through Adversity – Three times this weekend, the Phillies sent a rookie starter out to face the Red Sox. And though all three occasions ended in defeat, including Sunday's 6-2 loss that completed a sweep for Boston, interim manager Pete Mackanin recognizes that such struggles simply come with the territory of building toward 2016. "These young guys, they're taking their lumps," Mackanin said. "But that's what this year's about, and that's what the first time through the big leagues, you've got to fine-tune it a little bit and get over the experience of being here for the first time." On Sunday, right-hander Jerad Eickhoff took his turn learning just how difficult the Majors can be, allowing six runs on eight hits over four innings. He fell victim to David Ortiz's 497th home run in the first inning, a two-run blast to right field, and then surrendered four runs in a 44-pitch second. After that, however, Eickhoff went on to work two scoreless innings, including a perfect third on four pitches. "We were going to see if he would get away from his fastball and start being real fine with his pitches," Mackanin said. "Actually, I think he was trying to be too fine early in the game. When that happens, you end up making mistakes. And then after the damage was done, he went right back to his fastball and started making pitches. He reacted extremely well. So it was good to see." The shaky performance came after Eickhoff recorded quality starts in his first three games. But the 25-year-old took the tough game in stride, adding that he was glad Mackanin let him continue pitching after the second. "I'm as stubborn as they come," Eickhoff said. "And I want to come up here, and no matter how bad it's looking or how bad it is, I want to go out there for my team and try to get as deep as I can." To give his staff of youngsters some needed rest, Mackanin revealed that the Phillies plan on moving to a six-man rotation starting Wednesday against the Braves. However, the club has not announced who will take the open spot. "We've got a limit on pitches for [Aaron] Nola, and you got to be careful with Eickhoff and [Alec] Asher," Mackanin said. "For everybody, it's good this late in the season, especially the young guys who haven't pitched. Unless they're going to get extra days in between. Because they're not used to going this deep into a season. They're not used to playing in September. So the inning totals are going to be important to keep an eye on." For Eickhoff and his fellow rookies, they at least have the benefit of relying on their shared experiences while continuing to break into the big leagues. "Going through what I went through today, I would've bounced that off other pitchers and just see what they would've done differently, what I could have done instead of doing this, things like that," Eickhoff said. "So I think it's a good reference point, for sure."

Embracing Veteran Role – As Jeff Francoeur scanned the Phillies' lineup card Sunday morning and found his name, he joked that interim manager Pete Mackanin had made him the designated hitter by default. Francoeur's reason? Most of his teammates are too young to DH. "It's kind of new," Francoeur said. "A lot of teams I'd always played on -- Chipper [Jones], [Carlos] Beltran and those guys -- whenever we played, they would DH. I guess now I'm the old guy on the team to DH." Following the midseason departures of Cole Hamels, Chase Utley and Jonathan Papelbon, the 31-year-old Francoeur suddenly finds himself in an unfamiliar role as one of the club's elder statesmen. Sunday's lineup featured six players under the age of 26 and rookie starter Jerad Eickhoff on the mound. "It's definitely been weird. But I enjoy the grind of it," Francoeur said. "I enjoy helping some of these younger guys. Odubel [Herrera], Aaron Altherr, and just teaching them the game the best I can." Sitting around in between at-bats is also a fairly fresh experience for Francoeur, who played just his fifth career game as the DH. "Honestly for me, it's just stay in the game, stay focused before each at-bat," Francoeur said. "It can get tough sometimes. It's more just trying to lock in and concentrate the best you can. It's almost like pinch-hitting a little bit. You kind of sit around and relax. I'll come up [in the clubhouse] and stretch, swing a little bit." Now on his seventh team in 11 seasons, Francoeur's up-and-downs leave him well-equipped to assist a clubhouse as young as Philadelphia's. He counts this season in particular as a personal triumph after playing almost all of 2014 with Triple-A El Paso, a Padres affiliate. "It's a humbling thing. I think you ask any guy, growing up, you never would have thought you would play for 11 seasons," Francoeur said. "But at the same time, it shows how hard you work. Especially for me after last year. Spending some of the year at Triple-A, then getting to come back and put a good year together was something that meant a lot to me."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 53-84. 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 55-65-1 on this day.

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