Sunday, October 4, 2015

Phillies Swept By Marlins In Final Double Header Of The Season

GAME 1 RECAP: Marlins Stymie Phillies 7-6

The Marlins scored two runs in the top of the ninth inning to beat the Phillies in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park, 7-6. Phillies closer Ken Giles blew just his second save in 17 opportunities since replacing Jonathan Papelbon in that role in late July. Giles allowed a one-out single to Christian Yelich, who scored on a triple from Martin Prado to tie the game. Prado scored the go-ahead run on Marcell Ozuna's single to left field. "We're just playing hard until the end," Yelich said after his team improved to 70-90. The Phillies dropped to 62-98. They are trying to avoid 100 losses for the first time since 1961, but they would also like to secure the No. 1 selection in the 2016 MLB Draft. They entered the game with a half-game lead over the Reds for that coveted pick. "We had them where we wanted them," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We couldn't put it away."

GAME 2 RECAP: Marlins Beat Phillies 5-2

Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich stole the show Saturday night in Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. He played a part in three of the Marlins' runs in a 5-2 victory. He singled and scored in the first, doubled to score Dee Gordon in the second and singled and scored in the fifth. He had eight hits in the doubleheader sweep. "We're fighting 'til the end, battling 'til the end," Yelich said. "I'm glad to see we're playing so well at the end of the year. Hopefully, we can come in here tomorrow and end it on a good note." The Marlins will end the year having won eight of their final 10 series. The news wasn't completely bad for the Phillies, who must win Sunday to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961. They locked up the first pick in the 2016 Draft by clinching the worst record in baseball. The Phillies will have the first overall pick for the second time in franchise history and the first time since 1998, when they selected Pat Burrell. "We're trying to win every game," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Nobody wants to lose 100 games. Nobody wants to lose 90 games -- 99 or 100 is just as bad. We've heard about [the top pick in the Draft] for a couple weeks now. We're very aware of it. That's one positive that comes out of it. We're guaranteed getting the guy and apparently he's a pretty good pitcher. It's been on our minds." Mackanin did not say who that pitcher might be, but he might be Florida pitcher A.J. Puk, who scouts think could move quickly through the Minor Leagues and help a team as early as 2017. IMG Academy (Lakeland, Fla.) left-hander Jason Groome and St. Thomas Aquinas (Overland Park, Kan.) right-hander Riley Pint could be the top two high school arms in next year's Draft. Puk and Oklahoma right-hander Alec Hansen could be the top two college arms.

  • Chase d'Arnaud tripled and scored the Phils' go-ahead run in the sixth inning when Freddy Galvis hit a sacrifice fly to left field.
  • Right-hander Aaron Harang made his final start of the season and quite possibly for the Phillies, allowing eight hits, four runs, one walk and striking out two in 5 2/3 innings. Harang (6-15, 4.86 ERA in 29 starts) will become a free agent after the season. He is not expected to return, although the Phillies are expected to replace him with another veteran starter in the offseason. "I'm not sure yet," Harang said about pitching again next season. "I've got to go home and think about it with my wife and kids and really decide what I want to do from here."
  • Harang earned a no-decision, which means the Phillies stand the chance of becoming the first in baseball since 1915 not to have a single pitcher finish the season with seven or more wins. Harang, Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola and Giles each have six wins this season. Giles has a chance to earn a win in the season's final two games.
  • Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco started his first game since Aug. 11, when he was hit by a pitch and broke his left wrist. He ripped a solo home run to center field in the fourth inning and singled to score a run in the sixth inning. Franco's homer was his 14th of the season. "I felt good," Franco said. "Just coming into today, be ready for everything. My wrist is really good, 100 percent."
  • Phillies rookie Alec Asher will hope for better next season. He allowed six hits and three runs in two innings in his seventh and final start of 2015. He finished 0-6 with a 9.31 ERA, becoming the first pitcher to go winless in his first seven starts with the Phillies since Paul Abbott in 2004. "We ran Asher out there and he struggled again," Mackanin said. "He's got work to do."
  • "He looked at me and he said, 'One more, Papi.'" -- Phillies right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who promised Franco he would buy him a suit if he hit 15 home runs this season. Franco enters Sunday's season finale with 14.

The Phillies finish their season Sunday against the Marlins. Right-hander David Buchanan (2-9, 7.54 ERA) gets the final start. He hopes to carry some positive momentum into the offseason. He has allowed four earned runs in 15 2/3 innings in his last three starts. In the season finale on Sunday, the Marlins are handing the ball to rookie left-hander Adam Conley (4-1, 3.84) in the 3:05 p.m. ET affair. In five September starts, Conley was 2-0 (2.54 ERA) with 30 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings.


Impactful Return – Maikel Franco badly wanted to play again this season, and he proved Saturday he was more than ready. He pinch-hit in Game 1 of Saturday's doubleheader against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, a 7-6 loss. He started Game 2, hitting a home run in the fourth inning and singling to score a run in the sixth inning in a 5-2 loss. They were Franco's first games since Aug. 11, when he got hit by a pitch and broke his left wrist in Arizona. "Oh, yeah," Franco said, when asked if his wrist feels fine. Some Phillies fans have wondered if there could be a risk to playing Franco, but the Phillies believe there is none. They said Franco's wrist has healed and he played five rehab games in the past week in Clearwater, Fla. He would have been playing this weekend anyway, either in Philadelphia or Clearwater. "My view on it is, why not play him?" Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I think he's going to be an outstanding middle-of-the-lineup third baseman for us, but he's not yet a star and he's getting paid and I'm going to play him because he's healthy. "Just like winter ball, people have made the comment, why would he want to play winter ball? He's still learning. He's not an established Major Leaguer. He's on his way to becoming one, but he's not yet. Every chance you get to play you can learn something and improve, and he needs to do that. What is he, 22? It's good for them to play." Franco's homer was his 14th of the season, which makes things interesting going into Sunday's season finale. Not only are the Phillies trying to avoid their first 100-loss season since 1961, but Franco needs one more homer to win a new suit from Phillies right fielder Jeff Francoeur. Frenchy told Franco he would buy him a suit if he hits 15 homers. "One more, Papi," Franco told Francoeur after he hit his homer to center field, a projected 411 feet, according to Statcast™. "Yes, one more," Franco told reporters. "I will try the best I can. I will try hard tomorrow."

Uncertain Future – The Phillies signed Aaron Harang to a one-year, $5 million contract in January because they needed a veteran pitcher to stabilize the rotation. Harang finished his season on Saturday evening in a 7-6 loss to the Marlins in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed eight hits, four runs, one walk and one home run in 5 2/3 innings to finish his season 6-15 with a 4.86 ERA. Harang, 37, will become a free agent after the season. He does not know if he will try to pitch next year. "I'm not sure yet," he said. "I've got to go home and think about it with my wife and kids and really decide what I want to do from here. I feel like I can go out there and pitch and be competitive and give my team a chance to win, but I've got to figure some things out." Harang seemed unlikely to rejoin the Phillies anyway, even if he planned to continue his career. Regardless, the Phillies are expected to sign at least one, perhaps two, free-agent veteran starters in the offseason. Pitchers like Doug Fister, J.A. Happ and Bartolo Colon seem to make the most sense for the Phillies, who are not expected to get involved with the top-tier free agents this offseason as they continue the rebuilding process. Rookies Aaron Nola and Jerad Eickhoff are expected to be heavy favorites to make the 2016 rotation coming out of Spring Training. Adam Morgan, David Buchanan, Alec Asher and others are expected to fight for a job or two, too. Harang said he likes the young talent he sees in Philadelphia. "I'm excited for the future of the Phillies," Harang said. "Definitely in Nola and Eickhoff you have two young guys that could potentially be front-of-the-rotation-type guys. They have the demeanor and the drive to be like that. Everybody talks about front-line guys got to have the best stuff. Not necessarily. It's about the determination and the commitment when they're out there. You can tell by their attitude, they're bulldogs when they're out there. "They've got a good idea of what they're doing out there. It's fun to watch. They've had their ups and downs, but they're very willing to listen. They ask a lot of questions. I talk to them a lot when we're on the bench or in the outfield. I'll go out and watch their bullpens and watch video of them. If I see something I'll talk to Mac [pitching coach Bob McClure] about it." Harang didn't have the season he wanted with the Phillies, but perhaps he left them with something better -- solid advice that could help the Phillies' young starters take the next step forward in 2016.

Done For The Season – For weeks, the Phillies have said Ryan Howard could play again before the end of the season. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin finally said Saturday that is not going to happen. "I don't think I'll play him the rest of the year," Mackanin said before Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park. "I don't see the point of that." Howard has not played since Sept. 14 because of a bruised left knee. He has been slow to recover and has not seen live pitching since he suffered the injury, unlike teammate Maikel Franco, who is scheduled to play Game 2 following a lengthy absence with a broken left wrist. Franco had played five games recently in Clearwater, Fla. If Howard's season is finished, one has to wonder if it could be the end of his Phillies career. Howard hit .229 with 29 doubles, one triple, 23 home runs, 77 RBIs and a .720 OPS in 129 games. He posted an .802 OPS against right-handed pitchers, which ranked 54th out of 144 qualified hitters in baseball. But he posted a .418 OPS against left-handers, which is the ninth-lowest mark in baseball in the past 20 seasons (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties). Howard is set to make $25 million in salary next season, plus a $10 million buyout on a 2017 club option. The Phillies have tried hard to trade Howard since last offseason, telling teams they would pay almost the entirety of his contract. But Howard's struggles against lefties, plus his defensive and baserunning issues, have made American League teams reluctant to acquire him. If Howard and Darin Ruf return next season, it seems very likely Mackanin uses a straight platoon at first with Howard starting only against right-handers and Ruf starting mostly against left-handers, although he has shown recently he can hit right-handed pitching when provided the opportunity. Ruf's 1.122 OPS against left-handers is the best in baseball (minimum 100 plate appearances against lefties).

Staff Changes? – Mackanin could announce any possible coaching staff changes following Sunday's game. Hitting coach Steve Henderson and pitching coach Bob McClure are expected to return. Bench coach Larry Bowa could return, if he chooses to continue his coaching career. He said recently he has not decided what he wants to do. Phillies first-base coach Juan Samuel said recently he is open to returning, although he also said he does not want to finish his career as a first-base coach. He also is interested in pursuing a managerial career.

The Phillies have returned to their lackluster ways and regained their grip on last place in the NL East with a record of 62-99. Given the departures, aging stars, injuries, and bipolar performances this season, this has ended up being one of the worst seasons in franchise history! All time, the Phillies are 12-12-1 on this day.

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