Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Rookies Shine In Win Over Braves

GAME RECAP: Phillies Blank Braves 5-0

The Phillies' future looks a little brighter just about every time Aaron Nola has pitched this season. The rookie pitched seven scoreless innings in Tuesday night's 5-0 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Nola allowed just six hits, one walk and struck out seven to improve to 6-2 with a 3.56 ERA in 10 starts since his promotion from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It is safe to say he is a heavy favorite to be in the 2016 rotation. "Nola was outstanding," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "He located his fastball, kept them off-balance, and made some great pitches." Braves right-hander Ryan Weber did a nice job in his big league debut. He allowed four hits, two runs, one walk and struck out two in six innings, but Nola kept the Braves' offense in check the entire night. The Braves are now just one game ahead of the Phillies in the battle against having Major League Baseball's worst record.

  • Nola suffered the worst start of his brief career last week in New York, where he allowed six earned runs in four innings against the Mets, but he rebounded nicely against the Braves. The only question is how much more the Phillies will see him this year? He has pitched 170 innings this season, including 109 1/3 innings in the Minor Leagues. The Phillies have said Nola will be limited to about 185-190 innings, which means he has about 15-20 innings to work with in his final three scheduled starts. "Took a day or so to get over," Nola said about his start against the Mets. "Even though we didn't come out with a win that night, I still felt good and my body and arm still felt good. So that's what I brought into tonight."
  • Phillies rookie Odubel Herrera played a part in four of the Phillies' five runs. He singled to move Cesar Hernandez to third in the fourth inning. Hernandez scored a batter later on a double play to hand the Phillies a 1-0 lead. Herrera then hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning for some insurance runs. Herrera is hitting .364 (75-for-206) in his last 56 games, raising his batting average from .243 to .302. "The three-run homer was huge," Mackanin said. "It allowed us to breathe a little bit."
  • "It's nice to come in here and smile for a change." -- Mackanin, in the Phillies' press conference room, referring to the Phillies' fourth victory in their last 15 games.
  • Buchanan has allowed 18 earned runs and totaled just 5 2/3 innings over his past two starts. The Atlanta native has posted a 3.91 ERA in four career starts against the Braves.
  • Freddie Freeman is 3-for-12 (.250) in his career against Buchanan with a home run and three RBIs.
  • Teheran has produced a 1.21 ERA in the six starts he has made against the Phillies dating back to the start of the 2014 season. Ryan Howard has gone 4-for-21 (.190) with a double and two homers in his career against Teheran.

Now that Philadelphia has lost Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and its former stable of aces, Ryan Howard stands as the most recognizable figure from that recent era when the Phillies replaced the Braves as the National League East's most dominant club. The Braves or Phillies won 16 of the 17 NL East titles awarded from 1995-2011. Howard arrived at the Major League level in 2004, in time to see the Braves win the last two of their 11 consecutive NL East crowns. Then in 2007, the powerful first baseman helped Philadelphia capture the first of its five consecutive division titles. Thus it is easy to understand why Howard has found himself in a rather unfamiliar position this week as the Braves and Phillies have battled against gaining the distinction of owning Major League Baseball's worst record. The two teams will conclude a three-game series on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Atlanta will send Julio Teheran to the mound to oppose David Buchanan.


Franco To Test Wrist – Maikel Franco is going to take one last shot at playing again for the Phillies in 2015. He said Tuesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park that he will hit off the practice tee on Wednesday. Franco has been on the disabled list since Aug. 12 because of a broken left wrist. He said if he feels something in the wrist he expects his season to be finished. "I was told if I don't feel pretty good and I still feel something in my wrist it should be over for the season and try to work on my wrist and try coming into next year [100 percent]," Franco said. Franco plans to play winter ball in Venezuela, but only if the Phillies clear him to play. There is absolutely no reason to risk further injury to Franco, who became the team's best hitter since his promotion in May. "I feel my wrist is pretty good," Franco said. "I've done a few exercises in the weight room, and it's getting better. It's getting very good. "It's a big day for me. I want to come back healthy, I want to come back and not feeling anything in my wrist. That's what I want to do right now."

New Ace? – The hot talk in baseball this week is Matt Harvey's innings limit with the Mets. There is no such controversy with the Phillies, but Aaron Nola is nearing his own innings limit. He pitched seven scoreless innings Tuesday night in a 5-0 victory over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Nola has pitched a combined 170 innings this season, which includes 109 1/3 innings with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley. It leaves him about 15-20 innings short of his 185-190 innings limit. "It's obviously been my longest year so far," Nola said, "but I really feel good. My body and arm feel really good. Every time I go out I just try to go as long as I can. I feel like the recovery has been good. Every time I take the mound every fifth day I feel really good." Nola (6-2, 3.56 ERA) is scheduled for just three more starts because the Phillies have just introduced a six-man rotation the rest of the season. He is scheduled to pitch Monday against the Nationals, Sept. 22 in Miami and Sept. 29 against the Mets. He could make every single one of those starts. He could make two. It simply depends on when the Phillies feel Nola has pitched enough. "I don't even know where he's at," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "When they tell me he's done, he's done." But Nola rebounded nicely from the worst start of his 10-start career last week against the Mets at Citi Field, where he allowed six earned runs in four innings, although poor defense should take much of the blame for that. Remove that defense-aided loss against the Mets and Nola has a 2.86 ERA in his other nine starts. Nola cruised most of the night against the Braves, throwing just 85 pitches (60 strikes). He needed just 18 pitches to get through his first two innings. He had runners on second and third with one out in the third, but struck out Nick Markakis and got Hector Olivera to fly out to end the threat. He had runners on first and second with one out in the sixth, but struck out Nick Swisher and got Jace Peterson to ground out to end the inning. "His ability to locate his fastball down in the strike zone on both sides of the plate is his strong suit," Mackanin said of Nola. "To mix in his secondary pitches when he wants to is a real good sign for the future. He's a special guy."

Return To The Rotation – The Phillies have just a few more weeks to watch rookie starters Aaron Nola, Adam Morgan, Jerad Eickhoff and Alec Asher pitch. But while they want to see them pitch, they also want to protect their arms. It is why they announced Tuesday that David Buchanan will start Wednesday night's series finale against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Buchanan's arrival creates a six-man rotation the rest of the season, which should limit the workload of the others. Buchanan is 2-7 with a 9.00 ERA in 10 starts, but the Phillies chose him over veteran Jerome Williams for one simple reason: Williams is a free agent and unlikely to return next season, while Buchanan is under team control and is expected to be with the team in Spring Training. The Phillies need as many starting pitching options as possible, so they want to give Buchanan another look, despite his struggles. "Whatever Ruben [Amaro Jr.] wants to do is fine with me," Phillies interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "That was the decision that was made. … Buchanan is in that slot for right now. There was some concern, and I know he wasn't pitching well, but that ankle injury that he had earlier in the season might have affected him. And he has been pitching relatively well in Triple-A [Leigh Valley]. So we'll get another look at him." Phillies starters have a 7.14 ERA in their previous 14 games. They also have thrown the second-fewest innings in baseball this season. "I plan on taking advantage of every opportunity I have," Buchanan said. "And this is another one that they are giving me this year. I'm not pitching to make up for the rest of this year. I am pitching as a fresh start.

2016 Schedule Announced – The Phillies announced their tentative 2016 schedule Tuesday. Here are a few highlights: They open the season April 4 in Cincinnati. The Phillies play their home opener April 11 at 3:05 p.m. ET against the Padres. The Padres series is the beginning of a 10-game homestand that includes the Nationals and Mets. The Phillies will host four American League teams as part of Interleague Play: the Indians, Royals, White Sox and Blue Jays. They play the Tigers, Blue Jays, Twins and White Sox on the road. It is the first time the Phillies will play the White Sox in Chicago since 2004, when Ryan Madson, Eric Milton and Brett Myers started for the Phillies. Fans looking to hit two of the best ballparks in baseball might want to consider the back-to-back series against the Twins (Target Field) and Giants (AT&T Park) in late June. Road trips to Southern California are always fun, too. The Phillies play back-to-back series against the Padres and Dodgers in early August. The Phillies play their final homestand against the Mets on Sept. 30-Oct. 2. Six-game and three-game packs of tickets will go on sale in mid-November. Group tickets will go on sale in mid-December and individual tickets will go on sale in February.

Minor Update – Players of the Week: Player - INF Drew Stankiewicz, Lakewood...Stankiewicz, a 22-year-old in his second professional season, was named Phillies Minor League Player of the Week after batting .438 (14-for-32) with eight runs scored, three doubles, and four walks in eight games. He scored at least one run in seven of those eight games and hit safely in seven as well, recording multiple hits five times. He finished with a .354 on-base percentage and a .288 average, after raising it from .241 in the season's final nine games. Stankiewicz was selected by the Phillies in the 11th round of the 2014 draft out of Arizona State University and was signed by Brad Holland. Pitcher - RHP Jake Thompson, Reading…Thompson, 21, started twice for the Fightins, and was dominant in both. He allowed two runs and no walks in 7.0 innings against Binghamton in his first start, and tossed 6.0 shutout innings against Richmond while striking out seven, walking none and surrendering just four hits in his second. It was his first scoreless outing in the Phillies' organization. Thompson was acquired by the Phillies in the eight-person trade that sent Cole Hamels to Texas on July 31, and in his seven starts with Reading he went 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and .217 opponent's batting average. The 6-foot-4, 235-pound right-hander was originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the second round of the 2012 draft. Lehigh Valley IronPigs - International League North Division…63-81, 5th place…After winning their first game of the week 8-3 over Syracuse, the IronPigs dropped six of their next seven, including a three-game sweep at the hands of Rochester to finish out the season. Despite an inconsistent season, Lehigh Valley drew more than 600,000 fans to Coca-Cola Park for the eighth straight year and they remain the league's attendance leader since 2008. Top hitting performers - 2B Tyler Pastornicky had a team-high 11 hits, batting .379 with a home run, double, three RBI and three runs scored. He hit .286 in 25 games for the IronPigs…INF/OF Russ Canzler clubbed two home runs and drove in five as he hit .357 with a .679 slugging percentage for the week…OF Kelly Dugan hit safely in his first seven games of the week, finishing with nine base hits, two runs and two RBI…C Logan Moore recorded a couple of multi-hit games as he went 4-for-11 (.364 ) with an RBI and a walk in his four games played. Top pitching performers - RHP David Buchanan struck out a season-high seven batters over 6.0 shutout innings on September 3 against Syracuse. He did not allow more than three earned runs in any of his 10 starts with Lehigh Valley…RHP Sean O'Sullivan did not allow a run in his 6.0 innings of work and has allowed just four earned runs in his last four starts (26.1 innings, 1.37 ERA)…RHP Nefi Ogando made two appearances out of the bullpen, combining to throw 3.0 scoreless frames with a pair of strikeouts…LHP Ken Roberts also threw 3.0 scoreless innings out of the bullpen, doing so over three games. Reading Fightin Phils - Eastern League Eastern Division …80-61, 1st place…Reading went 3-5 during a week which saw them clinch their first Eastern Division Title in 15 years. The Fightins finished the season first in the league with 101 home runs, and second in batting with a .269 team average. They will begin a best-of-five series with the Binghamton Mets in the first round of the playoffs on Wednesday. Top hitting performers - OF Dylan Cozens hit two home runs, scored three runs and drove in another three while recording three multi-hit games for Reading. He was promoted to Reading on August 28, where he hit .350 with three home runs and nine RBI in 11 games…C Rene Garcia completed his season with an active 12-game hit streak as he hit safely in all four games last week, batting .438 with three RBI. He hit .343 in 38 games with the Fightins. Top pitching performers - RHP Jake Thompson was named Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Week after striking out 11 batters, allowing no walks and just two runs in 13.0 innings pitched over two starts.…RHP Ben Lively started two games for the Fightins, combining to allow five runs (four earned) in 11.1 innings with 10 strikeouts and just two walks…RHP Ethan Martin started one game, tossing 5.0 no hit, no run innings with five strikeouts. He also appeared in relief, striking out a pair of batters in 1.2 innings pitched…RHP Jimmy Cordero struck out six batters and did not allow a base runner in 3.0 innings over two games out of the bullpen. In 13 games with Reading, he pitched 17.0 innings and struck out 18 while walking just four and posting a 2.12 ERA. Clearwater Threshers - Florida State League North Division…42-25, 1st place, 79-58 overall… The Threshers finished their season with the best record in the Florida State League as they won both the first and second half division titles. Clearwater will play Daytona-the team they edged out for first-place in both halves of the season-in the opening round of the Florida State League playoffs beginning Tuesday, September 8. Top hitting performers - SS Malquin Canelo homered twice and drove in five runs, including a season-high four on September 4. He also tripled, scored four runs and batted .348 for the week…1B Rhys Hoskins hit his eighth home run of the season for Clearwater and tallied a pair of three-hit games while hitting .364 last week. He finished the season with a .314 average, which would have been tied with teammate Willians Astudillo for the league batting title if he had enough at-bats to qualify…CF Carlos Tocci went 8-for-24 (.333) and hit safely in all but one of his six games played…2B/SS Jesmuel Valentin batted .292 and hit his first home run of the season in the team's final game. He drove in four runs and also doubled four times in six games. Top pitching performers - RHP Victor Arano surrendered two runs in 5.0 innings in his start on September 1, and followed that with a scoreless 3.0-inning relief outing on September 5…LHP Matt Imhof made two starts and allowed just four total runs (three earned) in 8.0 innings of work with 11 strikeouts. His seven strikeouts on September 6 tied his season high…RHP Alexis Rivero threw 2.0 scoreless innings in relief, marking the eighth time in nine outings he has pitched 2.0 innings or more out of the bullpen. He has allowed just one run since August 9 and finished the season with 30 strikeouts to just six walks…RHP Alberto Tirado appeared in two games and did not yield a run, striking out three batters in 4.0 innings. In his nine games (16.0 innings pitched) he posed a 0.56 ERA with 16 strikeouts and just six hits allowed. Lakewood BlueClaws - South Atlantic League Northern Division…40-30, 2nd place, 73-65 overall… The BlueClaws went 10 games over .500 in the second half, and despite a recent surge during which they won 10 of their last 14 games, they failed to make the South Atlantic League playoffs. Lakewood, which had one of the most consistent pitching staffs all year, finished third in the league with a 3.26 ERA. Top hitting performers - INF Drew Stankiewicz posted five multi-hit games, batting .432 with a team-high 14 hits in eight games. He scored seven runs, hit three doubles, drove in three runs and raised his batting average from .261 to .268. His strong finish earned him Phillies Minor League Player of the Week honors…1B Kyle Martin drove in seven runs and homered in back-to-back games, giving him five home runs and 37 RBI in 65 games this season. He also hit three doubles, scored six runs and slugged .731 in his final week of his first professional season…OF Cord Sandberg hit safely in seven of eight games, batting .292 with a pair of home runs, six RBI, six runs scored and three doubles. Top pitching performers - RHP Jairo Munoz was dominant in his two starts, pitching 6.0 innings of shutout ball with three hits allowed in his first start, followed by two runs in 5.0 innings in his next. He combined to strike out nine batters…RHP Ranfi Casimiro allowed a run on five hits and did not walk a batter in his 7.0-inning start. He went 9-7 with a 3.35 ERA, two complete games and a shutout in his 23 starts this season.…LHP Zach Morris earned a save after pitching 3.0 innings with no runs allowed and six strikeouts on September 1 and followed that with a perfect inning of relief five days later. Williamsport Crosscutters - New York-Penn League Pinckney Division…46-30, 1st place…Williamsport has landed in the postseason for the first time since 2005, and will face the West Virginia Black Bears in the opening round of the playoffs beginning on September 9. The Crosscutters went just 3-5 to end the season, but still posted the best record in the league, winning four more games than the Tri-City Valley Cats. Williamsport also had the second best ERA in the league (3.15) and third-most home runs (35). Top hitting performers - Three straight multi-hit games helped 2B Josh Tobias bat .350 for the week and raise his season average to .321-third highest in the New York-Penn League. Tobias, who also finished in a tie for the league lead in hits with 77, homered, drove in three runs and stole a base in his last week of the season…OF Mark Laird batted .308 in five games with three walks and a .438 on-base percentage. He finished with a .285 average and 28 runs scored in 52 games for the Crosscutters. Top pitching performers - In RHP Luke Leftwich's only start of the week, he held State College to a run on seven hits in 6.0 innings of work. He did not allow more than three earned runs in any outing with Williamsport and finished with a 2.76 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 45.2 innings…RHP Luis Morales tossed 6.0 shutout frames and walked just one batter in his only start of the week. He allowed just one earned run in his final 13.0 innings of the season…RHP Feliberto Sanchez tied a career high when he struck out seven batters in a 4.0-inning relief outing on September 2. He followed that with another scoreless inning and two more strikeouts on September 7.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 54-85. 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 54-42-1 on this day.

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