Sunday, March 13, 2016

Phillies Shock Powerhouse Blue Jays

EXHIBITION GAME RECAP: Philadelphia Trounces Toronto 8-5

Home runs by David Lough, J.P. Arencibia and Nick Williams lifted the Phillies to an 8-5 Grapefruit League win over the Blue Jays at Bright House Field on Saturday. The rebuilding Phillies are undefeated in their last eight games. They are 7-0-1 in that span and 9-3-2 overall. It was just the second loss of the spring for the defending American League East champion Blue Jays, who started a lineup that included Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki. Lough is a non-roster outfielder, and Arencibia a non-roster catcher. Lough also figured in the Phillies' run in the fifth when he hit a one-out infield single, stole second, hustled to third on a fly ball and scored on a single by Odubel Herrera. The Blue Jays scored first with two runs in the top of the second against Phillies starter Vincent Velasquez, who is competing for a spot in the rotation. First baseman Chris Colabello led off with a triple and scored when left fielder Michael Saunders singled up the middle. Saunders later scored on a groundout by catcher Josh Thole. Velasquez gave up two runs on four hits and two walks while recording three strikeouts over four innings. "I'm not trying to think about [making the team]," Velasquez said. "I'm not out there thinking about how I have a chance to win [a job]. I just want to pitch. I couldn't think about anything else but who I'm going up against. The Blue Jays, that's a tough lineup." The Phillies came back to tie the score against 41-year-old knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in the bottom of the third after the 2012 NL Cy Young Award winner set them down in order in the first two innings. Lough hit a two-run shot with one out when Dickey experimented with a fastball. "It was just a situation to work on something, a fastball in that ran back over the plate," Dickey said. "In an in-season game, I wouldn't have messed with it, but it was a great opportunity and a great spot to be able to try to use that and get some feedback from it. I got some great feedback, I need to execute a little bit better. It was a great day all around." Arencibia's home run came against veteran Brad Penny with one on in the bottom of the sixth. Arencibia also swatted an opposite-field double over the head of right fielder Roemon Fields in the bottom of the eighth, but he immediately left the game for pinch-runner Logan Moore with an apparent injury. Moore scored on Williams' three-run homer off Roberto Hernandez. "I don't know where this power's coming from, but I like it," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. "It's fun to win games. The guys are playing hard, and it's fun to do well. I know this is Spring Training and a lot of things are different, but it's always good to win and keep everybody positive." Jio Mier, who took over for Tulowitzki at shortstop, brought the Blue Jays within a run with a two-run home run in the top of the eighth before Williams' homer knocked the game open. Blue Jays center fielder Kevin Pillar had a tough day. He led off the game by smoking a long fly ball to the wall in center but was robbed of extra bases when Herrera made a terrific running catch. In the fifth he ripped a line drive down the left-field line that third baseman Maikel Franco speared with a diving catch.

  • Catcher J.P. Arencibia left the game after doubling in the eighth inning. He had fouled a pitch off his foot. The injury is not believed to be serious. 
Left-hander Adam Morgan, who is competing for a spot in the rotation, will make his third Grapefruit League start, against the Yankees on Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET, and the game will air on MLB.TV and Gameday Audio. Morgan was the Phillies' third-round Draft pick in 2011, and he missed the entire 2014 season recovering from shoulder surgery. Left-handers Brett Oberholtzer and Daniel Stumpf will also pitch for the Phillies.


Hustle Can Earn You A Roster Spot – Everybody will talk about the home run David Lough hit in the third inning of Saturday's 8-5 win over the Blue Jays at Bright House Field. And why not? Everybody loves the long ball. But what caught manager Pete Mackanin's eye was what Lough did in the fifth, when the 30-year-old non-roster outfielder reached on an infield single with one out, stole second, went to third on a fly ball and eventually scored on a base hit by Odubel Herrera. "We're not the Toronto Blue Jays who can just sit and wait because they've got five or six guys who can hit home runs," Mackanin said. "And when you're not hitting home runs or you're facing a tough pitcher, a little bunt for a base hit, get 'em over, get 'em in, manufacturing runs can help you win a game, as well as defense." The signing of Lough, who spent the last two years with the Orioles before signing a Minor League deal with the Phillies just weeks before Spring Training opened, didn't attract a lot of attention. But he's not conceding anything. "It might be a Minor League deal on paper but, in my mind, I'm coming in expecting to win a job," he said. "I have high expectations for myself. I kind of took a back seat the last couple years in Baltimore. But I say one step back, two steps forward. I worked really hard this offseason to try to get my swing where it is. My defense has always been there. So I'm trying to just put some wood on the ball and make this ballclub." Lough hit .247 in 174 at-bats for the Orioles in 2014 and .201 in 134 ABs last season. He's a career .255 big league hitter. "Lough is a solid extra outfielder," Mackanin said. "He knows how to play the game: He can steal a base, solid defender, good situational hitter. I like him a lot. We're going to have tough decisions to make with all these guys. Not just the pitching staff but the extra players we're going to keep." Lough hopes he can be a clubhouse mentor. "I've kind of been around a little bit now," he said. "Our coaching staff has done a good job of going over the fundamentals. And the guys like myself who are a little bit older and have been around a little bit can kind of teach these guys as we go along how to play the game. "The Phillies wanted to rebuild, but I kind of wanted to rebuild my career, too. Why not do it with a young group of guys and teach them the ropes, teach them hard work and hustle and the kinds of things I bring to the table?"

Speed Isn’t Everything – Vincent Velasquez threw a pitch during Saturday's 8-5 win over the Blue Jays that registered at 104 miles an hour on the Bright House Field scoreboard. Now, Velasquez throws hard. But not that hard. And besides, as manager Pete Mackanin frequently mentions when talking about the big right-hander the Phillies acquired from the Astros in the Ken Giles trade, velocity isn't everything. "Once again, you need more than a good fastball to win as a starting pitcher, and once again he showed enough with the breaking stuff," Mackanin said after the 23-year-old pitched gave up two runs on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts in four innings. "He's got a good two-seam fastball that he can throw for a strike when he gets behind in the count. That pitch is really important. I just like the way he attacks." After giving up two runs in the second while mostly throwing fastballs, he began mixing in his breaking stuff in the third and retired Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Troy Tulowitzki in order in the third. "My fastballs were all over the place. I have to do something else other than throw fastballs, fastballs, fastballs," Velsaquez said. "So then I kind of mixed it up a little bit. I was ahead of myself the first few innings and calmed myself down after those two runs." From all appearances, Velasquez is competing with left-handers Brett Oberholtzer and Adam Morgan, the latter of whom will face the Yankees on Sunday in Tampa, Fla., for the final spot in the rotation. "I'm not trying to think about it," he said. "I'm not out there thinking about how I have a chance to win [a job]. I just want to pitch. I couldn't think about anything else but who I'm going up against. The Blue Jays, that's a tough lineup."

Good Start – Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who is being counted on to fill a rotation spot, pitched under game conditions for the first time in a camp game at the Carpenter Complex on Saturday. He's recovering from a fractured right thumb. So it didn't help that a blister popped up on his right foot during his outing, which meant that he pitched only two innings instead of the expected three. He allowed three runs on four hits and two walks while throwing 34 pitches, 20 for strikes. On balance, he was pleased with his outing. "It feels good to be back out there. It's been a long time coming. Just felt good. Pitches felt good, just getting my feet wet again," he said. "Finger feels good. It's just getting that feel back. That's the biggest thing, getting in a game, getting that adrenaline going, that same feel in the thumb and everything." Pitching coach Bob McClure said before the game that Eickhoff can still be ready to make his first start of the regular season on schedule even if he makes another Minor League appearance before pitching in a Grapefruit League game. "If everything goes [well] and we have no more setbacks," he said. "How he's throwing his BPs and how he's throwing, everything looks pretty good. Not quite where he was at the end of the season, but it looks like it's getting there quick." Eickhoff expects to be ready. "Absolutely," he said. "The body feels great. It's just a matter of getting that feel, getting that repetition. Now I just continue to build. Just focusing on what I have next." He said he needs to improve his command. "I expect a lot of myself, and I'm trying to be in and out, to a 'T' every pitch. But there were some pitches that got away a bit. I was around the zone, and I was happy with that for the most part," he noted, adding that he's thrown all his pitches." McClure added a few more notes about the state of the pitching staff: Charlie Morton and Jeremy Hellickson, who have been slowed by the flu, will each pitch in Minor League games on Sunday. So will Jeanmar Gomez, who will just be getting work in. David Hernandez (triceps tendinitis), who has a chance to fill the closer's role left vacant when Ken Giles was traded to the Astros, threw in the bullpen Saturday morning. McClure said he "looked fine" and that he was waiting to see how he feels Sunday before committing to when he'll throw next and under what circumstances.

Phanatic Vs. Bautista – We haven't come across a "The Phillie Phanatic is in the best shape of his life" #HotTake from Phillies Spring Training this season, but -- and hear us out -- the Phillie Phanatic might be in the best shape of his life. Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista was just going through his pregame warm-up routine before a Grapefruit League game against the Phillies at Bright House Field, when a full-on fitness competition broke out. The Phanatic wandered over to butt his big belly into Bautista's preparation, and ended up getting schooled in a handstand contest. Not one to be out done, the Phanatic quickly regained his composure, channeled his inner Rocky and cranked out a bunch of one-arm push-ups, much to the chagrin of a defeated Joey Bats. As if he hadn't already earned the last laugh, the Phanatic proved he was a gracious winner ... by waiting to have a wardrobe malfunction until after Bautista turned his back. Show us someone who says the Phanatic isn't in the best shape of his life, and we'll show you someone whose pants are probably on fire.

Today In Phils History - In 1987, the Phillies paid up to land one of the big free agents when they signed Lance Parrish to take over behind the plate. Birthdays for the day include Eddie Pellagrini (1918), Bob Greenwood (1928), Luis Aquayo (1959), and, of course, Mariano Duncan (1963).

The Phillies have begun the spring with a 9-3-2 record (10-3-2 if you include the exhibition game against the University of Tampa). With the Phillies having finished the 2015 season with a spectacularly awful record of 63-99 it will be interesting to see what kind of team new President Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak put on the field. At the same time I am definitely looking forward to the games against Boston with former GM Ruben Amaro on the field. Given the departures, lingering contracts, a history of injuries, bipolar performances, and unproven talent, it should, at the very least, be an interesting season for the Phillies. Who knows, maybe they can avoid 100 losses... hopefully by more than one game!

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