Thursday, April 21, 2016

Phillies Avoid Sweep In Extra Innings

GAME RECAP: Phillies Edge Mets 5-4

Once the Phillies managed to stop the Mets' home run barrage on Wednesday, all they needed was a well-placed hit. Peter Bourjos obliged with a walk-off infield single in the 11th inning at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday night, leading Philadelphia to a 5-4 win to avoid a series sweep. "You want a winning record at home and play .500 on the road," manager Pete Mackanin said. "But we're happy to go 5-5 on this homestand. It's great to salvage a win from these guys, as well as they've been swinging the bats." The Phillies began their winning rally when Freddy Galvis doubled sharply to right field with one out. Mets reliever Hansel Robles intentionally walked the next batter, advanced both runners on a wild pitch, then got pinch-hitter Emmanuel Burriss to fly out. But Bourjos, batting ninth in the lineup, followed with a soft grounder that handcuffed David Wright at third base, forcing him to throw off his back leg. Bourjos beat the throw to first base with relative ease, allowing the winning run to score. "He's one of the fastest guys in the game, so I knew just catch and release," said Wright, who just missed catching a foul pop on the first pitch of Bourjos' at-bat. "I was able to make a good throw, just not nearly in time." It was enough to upend the Mets, who for much of the night seemed bent on keeping Citizens Bank Park their home away from home. Twenty-eight of the Mets' 37 runs this series came via the homer, and Wednesday's finale was not much different. Consecutive fifth-inning long balls from Yoenis Cespedes and Lucas Duda gave the Mets a temporary lead against Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson, who received a no-decision. So did Mets counterpart Bartolo Colon, who was in line to pass Pedro Martinez with his 220th career win before Bourjos laced an RBI single off Addison Reed in the seventh, tying the game and ultimately sending it to extra innings. The Phillies had done their earlier damage off Colon on Galvis' two-run homer and a David Lough sacrifice fly. "You get a little greedy, you win the first two you want to win the third," Wright said. "But series wins, that's the name of the game. At least we can take that out of here."

  • After Hellickson was lifted with one out in the fifth inning,Hector Neris took over and proceeded to throw a career-high 2 2/3 scoreless innings in long relief, striking out six. Neris has been the most reliable arm in the Phillies' bullpen, having yet to allow a run in eight appearances this season. "From his last two outings in the spring, [Neris] started showing real good command and poise," Mackanin said. "Even through the early part of this season, he's been doing that every time. The numbers speak for themselves." Those numbers? Neris has struck out 15 while walking only two. He's inherited five runners and stranded them all. The rest of the Phillies' bullpen got the job done, too, totaling 6 2/3 innings without allowing a run and striking out 11. "They were executing pitches," Mets catcher Travis d'Arnaud said. "Not only their fastballs, but their offspeed. You've just got to tip your cap and move on."
  • Lough has played in all three games since being recalled on Monday, and has at least one hit in all three. He went 2-for-3 with a single, double and sacrifice fly on Wednesday, providing Philadelphia with a much-needed offensive spark. His sac fly briefly gave the Phillies their first lead of the series, and he also scored his first run. "People think it's a huge difference between Triple-A and the big leagues," Lough said. "It's really not. ... It's just about getting comfortable down there, then coming up here and trying to help the team win."
  • "The chances of getting him out on that play are pretty impossible." -- Wright, on Bourjos' game-winning infield hit.
  • Wednesday marked the first time since June 1, 1979, that the Phillies had anyone but a pitcher bat ninth in the starting lineup, playing in a National League stadium. The last position player to do so was shortstop Bud Harrelson, who went 1-for-3, with Steve Carlton batting eighth.
Philadelphia gets its first day off since April 5, the day after Opening Day in Cincinnati, on Thursday before beginning a three-game weekend set in Milwaukee on Friday at 8:10 p.m. ET. Aaron Nola will pitch, looking to get back on track after allowing seven runs in five innings to the Nationals on Saturday.


Cleaning Up In The Nine Spot – In any other game Pete Mackanin has managed, and in any other game the Phillies have played since 1979, the pitcher's spot would have been up with two outs and the winning run on third base in the 11th inning. But because the lineup "just looks better" to Mackanin, with Peter Bourjos hitting ninth and Jeremy Hellickson -- the Phillies' starting pitcher in their 5-4 win over the Mets -- initially batting No. 8, it was Bourjos who came to the plate and sped down the first-base line, just beating the throw across the diamond from David Wright and allowing Freddy Galvis to score the winning run. "Looking at it now, it's pretty funny," said Bourjos, who also tied the game with a single in the seventh that ultimately forced extra innings. "He came through twice big for us," Mackanin said. "We're happy for that." The Phillies' right fielder entered Wednesday's game hitting .167 with an on-base-plus-slugging-percentage of .472. But he proceeded to go 2-for-5 with two RBIs, doubling his season total in one night. In the seventh, Bourjos went the other way to drive home David Lough. "It was nice to see him get those two hits, especially going to right field," Mackanin said. "[Hitting coach] Steve Henderson has been working with him on taking the ball up the middle and to the right side. It was nice to see that single to right field." It marked the first time since June 1, 1979, that the Phillies had anyone but a pitcher bat ninth in the starting lineup, playing in a National League stadium. The last position player to do so was shortstop Bud Harrelson, who went 1-for-3, with Steve Carlton batting eighth. Bourjos almost didn't get the opportunity for his 11th-inning heroics. After Galvis doubled, a wild pitch advanced him to third with one out. The Mets then began to walk Emmanuel Burriss -- pinch-hitting for Jeanmar Gomez in the spot ahead of Bourjos -- but two pitches into the intentional free pass, they changed course. Burriss attempted a squeeze play, with Galvis rushing home from third, but he bunted foul. "I would've liked to win a game with a squeeze," Mackanin said. The Phillies then had one more scare. Bourjos, now batting with two outs after Burriss flied out, hit a towering popup into foul territory behind third base. Wright chased it to the stands, where it looked like it would be uncatchable, but the wind brought it back within reach. The Mets' third baseman tumbled into the wall and was unable to make the grab. "I missed it by about six inches or so," Wright said. Two pitches later, the ball came right back to Wright, this time hard on the ground. He made a backhanded snag and quickly threw across his body in a hopeless attempt to beat the speedy Bourjos to first. Galvis scored, and the Phillies had won. Not long after, Galvis doused Bourjos with a energy drink bath. "I didn't feel comfortable until I touched the bag," Bourjos said. Mackanin said before the game he's never been a fan of hitting the pitcher eighth. But with Bourjos collecting two clutch hits from the No. 9 spot, Mackanin now has a decision on his hands. "It worked out tonight," he said. "We'll see. Like I said, once he starts swinging the bat better, like I know he can, then I probably won't do that. It just happened to fall into place tonight."

Bailey Back In The Majors – Before Andrew Bailey appeared in 10 games out of the Yankees' bullpen near the end of last season, the former All-Star closer hadn't pitched in a big league game since 2013. Bailey received something more than a September callup from the Phillies on Wednesday, as they purchased his contract from Triple-A Lehigh Valley and designated left-hander James Russell for assignment. "It's a big opportunity I've been looking forward to," Bailey said prior to Wednesday's 5-4, 11th-inning win over the Mets. Bailey was one of 24 relievers the Phillies had in Spring Training and one of 25 non-roster invitees, spanning all positions. A strong start and prior closing experience fueled speculation he could fill the Phillies' then-vacant closer's role. But allowing five runs in the final stretch led to him starting the season in Triple-A. "I do think going down to Triple-A helped me out," Bailey said. "Just being able to gain strength and momentum from Spring Training. I feel ready to go, ready to rock -- significantly better than Spring Training." In four relief appearances for the IronPigs, Bailey tossed five innings, allowing just one run and striking out 10. Meanwhile, Russell appeared in seven games for the Phillies, leaving the team with an 18.69 ERA and more walks (five) than strikeouts (four) in 4 1/3 innings. "Russell wasn't pitching the way he's capable of," manager Pete Mackanin said. "[Bailey] wasn't far off in spring. ... He's throwing pretty good. I haven't seen him [since he went to Triple-A], but his numbers, even though it's a small sample, they're OK." Mackanin said the Phillies plan on "seeing where he fits in," but Jeanmar Gomez will continue to work the ninth inning. Gomez pitched the 10th and 11th innings Wednesday, allowing no runs, one hit and striking out two. Bailey was available but did not see action.

Herrera Moves Up – Manager Pete Mackanin has insisted the Phillies need Odubel Herrera in the middle of their order because of the pop and hitting ability he provides. "He's probably our best hitter right now," Mackanin said before Monday's game, in which Herrera hit second. But he couldn't resist the urge to keep the hitter leading the National League in walks and pitches seen per plate appearance out of the leadoff spot for long. Mackanin had been clamoring to find a reliable leadoff hitter since the season started, experimenting with Freddy Galvis, Cesar Hernandez and Emmanuel Burriss there, as well as considering David Lough but deciding against it. Finally, after drawing 14 walks in 15 games, including a streak of his last six (the longest for a Phillie since Michael Young in 2013), he found his name atop the lineup in Wednesday's 5-4, 11th-inning win over the Mets. He went 1-for-4 with another walk. "I'm trying to be more patient each at-bat," Herrera said. "And that's giving me a lot of good results, so I'm going to keep trying to do it." That success had led to him reaching base at the 14th-best clip in baseball, a .426 rate, heading into Wednesday's action. However, it took until No. 35 on the on-base percentage leaderboard to find a player with a worse batting average (which doesn't include walks) --Mark Teixeira, who had a .385 OBP and .200 average, compared to Herrera's .426 and .255 marks. Because of Herrera's consistency reaching base near the top of the lineup, he also leads the Phillies in runs scored, with five. Having him on base gives players hitting behind him, like Ryan Howard and Maikel Franco, more chances to drive him home. "That's what I'm looking for," Franco said. "Players get on base and in scoring position, you can drive them in. That's what you're looking for." "If he's on base, things can kind of change," Howard added. "If there's runners on first and second or second and third, or just if he's on first, things can change, too." Although the team appreciates his capacity for getting on base, the amount of pitches he sees in an at-bat could arguably be even more valuable -- especially to those hitting directly behind him. Herrera's 5.13 pitches-per-plate-appearance led baseball. Mike Napoli was a distant second, averaging 4.89. "I really want to establish myself in the MLB. I want to be respected," Herrera said. "I'm just seeing as many pitches as I can because I want to learn from those pitchers, too. I want to see what they're all about." Howard and Franco agreed that being able to see more more pitches from the dugout or on-deck circle allows them to be more aggressive once they step into the box. "A guy like Dubi will allow you to kind of see pitches," Howard said. "It helps you develop your plan a little bit more. ... If you're trying to see what this guy's slider's doing, how's his changeup, does it just float, does it sink, does it fade? Does he have a lot of bite on this pitch? What's he trying to do?" It took Herrera until Aug. 14 to draw his 14th walk last season. By that time, he had struck out 82 times; Herrera's whiffed 16 times this season. He wasn't issued a single free pass in Spring Training. Herrera, however, said he hasn't made any drastic changes to his approach. But the team is taking notice. "He's looking for pitches, and if he doesn't get it, then he's not swinging," Howard said. "He's definitely shown more patience and continues to mature as a hitter." "It's a game of adjustments," Mackanin said. "Who's going to make the adjustments? Instead of making the same outs the same way ... you like to see players realize that, 'Hey, I see what they're trying to do to me, and I'm not going to swing at that pitch anymore.' That's the maturation process."

Today In Phils History – Today is a bit of a mixed bag for the Phillies. It started off on a high note with pitcher Bill Duggleby hitting a homerun during his major league debut in 1898 and, most recently, Cliff Lee collected his 10th 10 strikeout, no walk, performance as a Phillie (tying Curt Schilling’s record) in 2014, Chase Utley hitting a homerun in his 5th consecutive game in 2008 (tying a team record), and Cole Hamels dominating the Reds with 15 strikeouts in 2007 (the Phillies also turned a triple play in that game). Today also saw Mike Schmidt connect for his 7th homerun in four games in 1976 falling one short of Ralph Kiner’s record. And while Jim Bunning losing for the first time as a Phillies at Shea Stadium to the Mets in 1967 was bad enough all of these things are overshadowed by the fact that 50 years ago today the Phillies traded future Hall of Fame Pitcher Fergie Jenkins to the Cubs for Larry Jackson and Bob Buhl. But, lets end this one on a positive note, Happy Birthday to Blueclaws manager and former Phillies Gregg Legg who was born on this day in 1960.

The Phillies are currently 7-9 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 43-38-3 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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