Monday, April 11, 2016

Hellickson And Herrera Hand Harvey The Loss

GAME RECAP: Phillies Top Mets 5-2

The Phillies put a dent in the Mets' plans to beat up on their National League East counterparts this season, beating Matt Harvey in a 5-2 win Sunday to take two of three this weekend at Citi Field. Odubel Herrera's two-run homer in the sixth inning highlighted a steady stream of offense for the Phillies against Harvey, who plated their first run on a Freddy Galvis sacrifice fly. All told, the Phillies rapped out six hits and drew two walks against Harvey, who needed 95 pitches to complete six innings. "Obviously, the outcome is not ideal," Harvey said. "I made a bad pitch there and it cost us some runs, unfortunately. Today, we needed zeros and I wasn't able to do that." For Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson, the crooked numbers were enough. Retiring the first 11 Mets he faced, Hellickson did not allow a run until Yoenis Cespedes chased him with a two-run homer to put the Mets on the board in the sixth. But the Mets wound up scoring three or fewer runs for the fourth time in five games this season. The series win gave the Phillies more wins at Citi Field already this season than they amassed all of last year. "When the other team outplays you for two straight days, this is going to be the outcome," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "These past couple days, they pitched better than us. They hit better than us. They did everything better than us, and it shows in the win-loss column."

  • The center fielder hit a two-run shot off Harvey with one out in the sixth on a liner to right-center, giving the Phils a 3-0 lead. It was his first homer of the season. "He got a good pitch to hit and he hit it," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said about Herrera's at-bat. "He's been swinging and fouling off a lot of what looks like good pitches to hit. We were kind of wondering how come. We knew he was going to hit, so it was good to see him break out that way."
  • The right-hander had retired the first 11 batters when Cespedes dumped a single to right field with two out in the fourth. It was the Mets' only hit in the first five innings. 
  • A sacrifice fly by Ryan Howard nearly went for naught when Herrera wandered too far off second base in the eighth, allowing Curtis Granderson to sneak a throw in behind him. As Herrera scampered back to the bag, Galvis scored to extend the Phillies' lead to 4-2, though the exact timing of those two plays didn't wind up mattering; a two-minute, 25-second review confirmed the call that Herrera was safe.
  • The Phils lost their first four games and avoided opening 0-5 for the first time in 82 years with a 1-0 win over the Mets at Citi Field on Saturday night. The Phillies took two of three from the Mets with Sunday's 5-2 victory.
  • The Padres were shut out three times in a row at home by the Dodgers to open the season, then came back to score 29 runs and win the first two games of a three-game series against the Rockies in Denver. They were denied a sweep Sunday with a 6-3 loss at Coors Field.
  • The Padres placed infielder Yangervis Solarte on the 15-day disabled list Sunday with a strained right hamstring. They recalled Alexi Amarista from Triple-A El Paso to take Solarte's place.

Aaron Nola receives his first Opening Day assignment of any kind, starting the Phillies' home opener against fellow right-hander Andrew Cashner and the Padres on Monday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Nola made his first start of the season Wednesday in a 6-2 loss to the Reds in Cincinnati, although he pitched well, allowing just a run on four hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in seven innings. He didn't take the loss. Cashner was the losing pitcher Wednesday in a 7-0 home loss to the Dodgers, having allowed five runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts in four innings.


Great Way To Start The Season – After struggling last season with the D-backs, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson has to be pleased with his first two starts for the Phillies. Inclusive of Sunday's 5-2 victory over the Mets at Citi Field, Hellickson has worked 11 2/3 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits. That translates to a 1-0 record and a highly stingy 1.54 ERA. Hellickson admitted that he could never generate any consistency in 2015 for Arizona, where he even spent Aug. 19-Sept. 10 on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. He finished with a 9-12 record and a 4.62 ERA. "You're right," he said after pitching 5 2/3 innings against the National League East-rival Mets, the performance ending when Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-run homer. "You know, it seemed like I'd throw two or three good ones and then a bad one. I just think there's a little bit more life to my fastball right now." Phillies manager Pete Mackanin was asked what key he and pitching coach Bob McClure had turned on Hellickson when the three worked together in Clearwater, Fla., this spring. "He was a left-handed pitcher before this year," Mackanin said without cracking a grin. "We turned him into a righty. We just saw something." But seriously now, folks. "Not really," Mackanin said. "We just let him pitch. We hadn't really seen him except facing him. He's healthy and I like the way he changes speeds. He just keeps hitters off balance and he locates. He has movement and did a great job today." Hellickson kept the Mets off balance, retiring the first 11 batters until Cespedes, a right-handed hitter, punched a single the opposite way to break up the no-hit bid. Hellickson had walked one and struck out five when David Wright doubled to right with one out in the sixth. Cespedes worked the count full and fouled off a number of pitches during the 11-pitch at-bat when he hit a changeup on a towering drive into the left-field seats. It was Hellickson's 91st pitch, one too many, and Mackanin pulled him. "Yeah, it was a changeup, probably one of the better ones I threw all day," Hellickson said. "It was just a good hitter hitting a good pitch, but I felt pretty good the rest of the day." The Phillies obtained Hellickson from the D-backs for Minor League hurler Sam Williams last Nov. 14. The D-backs had decided to restructure their rotation, eventually signing free agent Zack Greinke and obtaining Shelby Miller from the Braves in a trade. With the way the young Phillies rotation is structured, Hellickson is a veteran and gives the staff some ballast. At 29, he has six years of Major League experience, the first five for the Rays. "It just feels good to throw well this early," Hellickson said. "I haven't had that much success in the last few Aprils. To get off to a pretty good start means a lot. I'm just keeping the ball down and feeling a lot better. That has a lot to do with it."

WS Holdover Focusing On Present – From the Phillies' most recent heyday, Ryan Howard is one of the only players left standing. That's probably more a function of the tail end of Howard's five-year, $125 million contract than anything else. There have been diminishing returns from the proud left-handed-hitting first baseman lately, and the Phillies haven't been able to move him. Howard is now a part-time player, facing only right-handed pitching. In his 13th season, all with the Phils, he's a .219 lifetime hitter against lefties. Last year it was .130 with three of Howard's 23 homers and 10 of his 77 RBIs. Manager Pete Mackanin saw enough. "He's not going to face lefties, occasionally here and there," Mackanin said before Sunday's5-2 win over the Mets at Citi Field. "I think that's going to help all the way around. Last year, he really wasn't very good against lefties. The fact he won't have to worry about them is going to make him even more productive against right-handers. At least that's what the hope is." Mackanin's hope for Howard played itself out well Saturday against seemingly ageless right-hander Bartolo Colon. He led off the fifth with an opposite-field homer into the left-field seats, providing the only scoring in a 1-0 Phillies victory, their first of the season after four losses. It was Howard's second of the young season and the 359th of his career, pushing him past Yogi Berra and Carlos Lee into a tie for 83rd on the all-time list with Johnny Mize. The homer was Howard's 45th along with 130 RBIs against the Mets. "[Colon] gave me a good pitch to hit and I drove it out of the ballpark," Howard said Sunday. "Luckily for us, it was enough." True to form, Howard was back in the lineup Sunday against star Mets right-hander Matt Harvey. Howard rolled his eyes when asked about the restrictions now being imposed on him against left-handed pitching. "Oh my gosh, there's nothing I can do about it," he said. "I mean, it is what it is with the situation. I'll just roll with it, I guess. I'm just going to leave it at that." Howard was a fifth-round pick by the Phillies in the 2001 Draft, and he emerged as as powerhouse player. In '06, he hit 58 homers, knocked in 149 runs and had a 1.084 OPS, all career highs. In '08, when the Phils defeated the Rays in a five-game, rain-delayed World Series, Howard hit 48 homers and collected 146 RBIs. From 2006-09, Howard's four-season power numbers looked like this: 198 homers and 572 RBIs. Outstanding. Because of injuries and wear and tear, he hasn't come close again to replicating that kind of production. Back then, it didn't matter which hand a pitcher threw with. Howard simply hit it. Be that as it may, Howard and catcher Carlos Ruiz are the only players remaining from the team that defeated the Rays and then lost to the Yankees in a six-game 2009 World Series. "That's crazy," Howard said. "But that's what happens." Staples of that 2008 team are elsewhere: Shortstop Jimmy Rollins with the White Sox; second baseman Chase Utley and right-hander Joe Blanton are with the Dodgers; outfielders Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino are with the Nationals and Cubs, respectively, and left-hander Cole Hamels, the MVP of both the 2008 National League Championship Series and the World Series, is pitching for the Rangers. Brett Myers, Jamie Moyer and Brad Lidge are all out of the game. Howard, 36, could soon follow that path. The Phillies are in a rebuilding mode and he is in the final guaranteed year of his contract. The Phils can exercise a $23 million option to retain Howard for '17 or buy him out for $10 million. It's hard to believe they are going to exercise that option. "Fortunately, we have all summer," Phillies president Andy MacPhail said Sunday. "I can't worry about any of that now," Howard said. "We'll see how it plays itself out." Mackanin, who had two previous stints on the Phils' coaching staff before replacing Ryne Sandberg as interim manager last June 26, has to balance out all these issues. He's charged with developing the young players and utilizing the remaining veterans. As far as Howard's approach this season, Mackanin said: "He's trying to stay on top of the ball instead of working underneath the ball. He's looks pretty confident. He's going to be a big part of our offense, at least I hope he will be." Whether Howard will be a big part of the Phillies moving forward, Mackanin said that that's well beyond his pay grade. "It is what it is," he said, using the same catch phrase as Howard. "I don't really know what their plans are." If Howard continues to hit home runs, sooner rather than later, it all will be revealed.
Phils History - In 1907, snowballs gave the Phils the forfeit victory despite being 1 hit at the time by New York's Frank Corridon which is almost as shocking as Pittsburgh pitcher Doc Medich jumping into the stands in 1976 to perform CPR. And while we want to forget Robin Roberts losing his 12th straight opening day start in 1961, Dallas Green unceremoniously ending his first tenure with the franchise in 1965, and Garry Templeton turning a triple play against the Phillies in 1981, we can also celebrate John Kruk's return from cancer surgery in 1994 and Roy Halladay notching his 150th career win with his 50th career shutout in 2010. Also, Happy Birthday to Andres Blanco who turns 32 today, the same day that Pinkey Whitney debuted in 1928. 

The Phillies are currently 2-4 this season putting them on pace to meet most preseason predictions. The Phillies finished the spring exceeding most expectations compiling a record of 15-11-3 (18-11-3 if you include the exhibition games against Reading and the University of Tampa). All time, the Phillies are 24-17-0 on this day. I expect the Phillies to finish in the bottom half of the division but not last in the NL East by finishing the season with a 77-85 record. Let the rebuild begin!

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