Thursday, October 1, 2015

Phillies Mount Comeback, Look To End Season Strong

GAME RECAP: Phillies Shock Mets 7-5

Ten walks, seven wild pitches, four hit batters, 17 pitchers and two ejections. The Mets' quest for home-field advantage took a turn for the ugly in a 7-5 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday, when three hours and 59 minutes of baseball produced a crowded box score and a clubhouse full of frustrated Mets. Freddy Galvis' two-run single and a pair of wild pitches allowed the Phillies to complete a comeback from five runs down with a three-run sixth, taking their first lead of the game. By that point, Mets outfielder Yoenis Cespedes was long gone, having been hit on the hand by a Justin De Fratus pitch in the third. Also absent were reliever Hansel Robles and manager Terry Collins, both of whom were ejected. "You look at some of the at-bats, and we're better than that," Collins said. "After the big celebration and the big events over the weekend, we've got to get rekindled here." However, with the Dodgers' loss to the Giants, the Mets maintained their one-game lead over Los Angeles for home-field advantage in the National League Division Series with four games to play. "Yeah, I mean, I know it's in my head," De Fratus said of spoiling the Mets' home-field hopes. "At least if we can't play for a spot in the playoffs, then it's nice not to do them any favors."

  • Phillies rookie Alec Asher lasted just seven batters, allowing five runs and two home runs in just two-thirds of an inning. Asher finished his season 0-5 with a 9.00 ERA in six starts, making him a long-shot candidate to make the 2016 rotation out of Spring Training. "He needs some polish," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's going to be a good pitcher. He's not quite there yet. It's our job to polish him up."
  • Asher's early exit forced the Phillies' bullpen into action. They used seven relief pitchers, allowing just three hits, and none after the fourth inning. The Phillies also walked two and struck out six in 8 1/3 scoreless innings. "I had a line of relief pitchers that had smiles on their faces," Mackanin said. "They all contributed."
  • The Phillies challenged Eric Young Jr.'s stolen base in the sixth inning, believing second baseman Darnell Sweeney tagged Young before he reached the bag. But the ruling on the field stood as called.
  • The Phillies won a game in which their starter did not finish one inning for the first time since Sept. 2, 2006, when Scott Mathieson didn't record an out. It was also the first time the Phillies clinched a series against the Mets since April 9-11, 2014.
  • "Absolutely. Absolutely. It makes it that much sweeter. It would be nice to get another one tomorrow." -- Rupp, on if there is any satisfaction beating the Mets, knowing they are fighting for home-field advantage in the NLDS.
  • In what was momentarily a scary scene on the field, Cespedes left the game after De Fratus hit him on the left hand with an 89-mph fastball in the third inning. X-rays were negative, and Cespedes escaped with nothing more than a bruise of his middle and ring fingers.
  • Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (2-3, 3.07 ERA) gets the start for the Phillies. He has been one of the Phillies' few bright spots in the second half of the season.
  • Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Ryan Howard is unlikely to play for the remainder of the season, although he could be available to pinch-hit. Howard has been sidelined since Sept. 14 with a bruised left knee.
  • The Mets have 14 victories this season against the Phillies. It is only the fourth time in franchise history they have won 14 or more games against a team in a single season.

The Mets and Phillies hope to beat the rain Thursday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. The teams bumped up their previously scheduled night game to 12:05 p.m. ET because of heavy rains in the forecast. The Mets need to play with home-field advantage at stake for the National League Division Series. They lead the Dodgers by one game. The Mets are expected to make Thursday a bullpen game, with left-hander Sean Gilmartin getting the start. Steven Matz had been scheduled to pitch, but he has been slow to recover from upper back discomfort, which has his postseason availability in question.


Wake Up Music – The spoiler role is no motivator for Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. He is not standing in the middle of the Phillies' clubhouse before games rallying his team to beat the Mets because, hey, wouldn't it be nice to prevent New York from having home-field advantage in the National League Division Series? No, Mackanin has bigger fish to fry. But playing spoiler sure seemed to motivate Mackanin's players, who thoroughly enjoyed Wednesday night's 7-5 victory over the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. "Yeah, I mean, I know it's in my head," Phillies right-hander Justin De Fratus said. "At least if we can't play for a spot in the playoffs, then it's nice not to do them any favors. That was big time. That was a lot of fun tonight." "It makes it that much sweeter," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. Rupp felt pretty good about the victory, considering he helped spark it. Mets reliever Hansel Robles threw a 2-2 fastball near Rupp's head in the sixth inning, which caused the benches to clear. "That was the second time at home," Rupp said. "This one was a little more dangerous. I don't know if the guy knew where it was going or not. I don't know. If you're going to do it, make sure you know where it's going." Folks might remember Robles as the pitcher who threw quick pitches to Rupp and Darin Ruf on successive nights in late August before they were ready to hit. The occurrence to Ruf prompted benches to clear and Larry Bowa to be ejected. Robles was ejected this time -- and Mets manager Terry Collins -- because both teams previously received warnings. De Fratus hit Yoenis Cespedes in the left hand in the third inning, forcing him to the leave the game with bruised fingers. Adam Loewen plunked Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the fifth inning. Mets pitcher Logan Verrett then drilled Odubel Herrera in the middle of the back in the fifth, prompting the warnings. Bobby Parnell replaced Robles and walked Rupp and Chase d'Arnaud to put runners on first and second with one out. A wild pitch from Parnell advanced the runners to second and third. Freddy Galvis then laced a two-run single up the middle to tie the game at 5. Dario Alvarez replaced Parnell and got Herrera to pop out for the second out. But then Alvarez hit Aaron Altherr with a pitch on the foot to put runners on first and second. Carlos Torres became the Mets' fourth pitcher of the inning. He threw two wild pitches, allowing Galvis to score on the second one to give the Phillies the lead. The Phillies enter their final four games of the season at 61-97. They need to split to avoid 100 losses for the first time since 1961. "I know I wake up every day knowing I don't want to lose 100 games," De Fratus said. "That wouldn't be a nice thing to sit on in the offseason."

Movin’ On Up – The start time for Thursday's game between the Mets and Phillies in Philadelphia has been changed from 7:05 p.m. ET to 12:05 p.m. due to the anticipation of inclement weather. Jerad Eickhoff is scheduled to pitch for the Phillies, while the Mets will start Sean Gilmartin. Since debuting for the Phillies on Aug. 21, Eickhoff has gone at least six innings in six of his seven starts.

Unlikely To Return – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Wednesday that it "doesn't look good" for Ryan Howard to play again this season. Of course, Howard's return to the field before the end of the season Sunday is almost inconsequential at this point. The Phillies entered Wednesday with just five games to play. His return from a bruised left knee will not help the front office, manager or coaching staff learn anything new about him. But Howard is arguably the greatest first baseman in Phillies history and he is one of two remaining players from the 2008 World Series championship team. His continued absence is noteworthy, especially because he is set to earn $35 million next year, which includes a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option. Howard was sick Wednesday, so he was unavailable to comment. "But I'll see what he wants to do," Mackanin said. "If he wants to play a game, I'll throw him in there." If Howard does not play again this season, he will finish hitting .229 with 29 doubles, one triple, 23 home runs, 77 RBIs and a .720 OPS in 129 games. He posted a respectable .802 OPS against right-handed pitchers, which ranked 54th out of 144 qualified hitters in baseball. But he posted a troubling .418 OPS against left-handers, which is the ninth-lowest mark in baseball in the past 20 seasons (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties). "He put up some productive numbers, but his average is down, not to where we'd want it to be," Mackanin said. "Very similar to last year. So as far as analyzing his performance, it wasn't the best performance, it wasn't the greatest. He needs to get better." Mackanin said Howard needs to improve his defense, too. It seems clear that if Howard and Darin Ruf both return next season, that Mackanin will employ a straight platoon at first base, with Howard starting only against right-handers and Ruf starting only against left-handers. Ruf's 1.092 OPS against left-handers is second in baseball (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties). "For me, numbers mean something," Mackanin said. "When I have a player in Ruf who's hitting .370 against lefties and has the [second] highest OPS in the Major Leagues against left-handed pitchers, it only leads me to believe that's the guy we should play against lefties. So I'll just leave it at that." Asked if this is just who Howard is at this point of his career, Mackanin said, "Possibly. I can't ... I don't want to go there yet. You look at a guy like Raul Ibanez, a guy who was pretty productive when he was 39 or 40. It all kind of comes down to Ryan's health, how healthy his legs are next year. That's going to be a determining factor."

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 60-97. 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 30-27-0 on this day.

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