Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Phillies Defeated By Thor And Captain America

GAME RECAP: Mets Silence Phillies 5-2

Mets right-hander Noah Syndergaard continues to look superhuman as he cruised in a 5-2 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Monday night. Syndergaard's fastball hit 100-101 mph 18 times as he allowed five hits, one run and two walks and struck out eight in seven innings to improve to 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA. "Everything was clicking," Syndergaard said. "Mechanically, I felt great out there. It just gives you the most amount of confidence in the world." Back-to-back homers from Lucas Duda and Neil Walker in the eighth and David Wright's solo shot in the ninth -- his second dinger of the game -- gave the Mets some late breathing room. New York is looking for a little payback after dropping two of three to the Phillies earlier this month at Citi Field. "We are a team that's built on power, and when we hit homers, we win games," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Tonight, we hit homers." Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff battled Syndergaard through seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks and striking out nine. He is 1-4 in five career starts against the Mets, but he has posted a 2.81 ERA against New York as the Phillies have scored just four runs for him when he has been in those games.

  • Phillies manager Pete Mackanin knew his team would struggle to score runs this season, so he stressed the need to manufacture as many runs as possible. The Phillies followed this approach when they scored their only run against Syndergaard in the third. Freddy Galvis doubled, stole third and scored on a soft single to left field from Herrera to tie the game, 1-1. "We tried to take advantage of that," Mackanin said of Syndergaard's slow delivery to the plate. "You try to steal off of him. He's slow to the plate. But we didn't really have enough baserunners to make that a big issue." 
  • No visiting player has even come close to Wright's 22 career homers at Citizens Bank Park. Next on the list is Carlos Beltran, who has hit 14 homers at the ballpark, which opened in 2004.
Vince Velasquez has been nothing short of brilliant in his first two starts this season. He makes his third Tuesday night at 7:05 ET against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. Velasquez struck out 16 and walked zero in a shutout Thursday against the Padres. He pitched six scoreless innings, striking out nine, against the Mets at Citi Field on April 9.


Holding His Own – Jerad Eickhoff lacks the golden locks, the comic strip nickname and the 100-mph fastball of Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard, but that does not mean he cannot compete with baseball's latest superhero. Eickhoff battled "Thor" for seven innings Monday night in a 5-2 loss to the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed five hits, two runs, three walks and struck out nine on a night when he had little margin for error. While the Phillies may lack the firepower to compete with the Mets in 2016, it is not a stretch to think Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez and Aaron Nola could be battling the Mets' young stud pitchers with much more on the line in the future. "Without a doubt," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I like what I see from them. They've got a real good presence on the mound. That's one concern we don't have." Eickhoff is 1-4 in five career starts with the Mets, but throw the record out the window because the Phillies have scored just four runs when he has been on the mound in those games. He also has a 2.81 ERA in those starts, striking out 32 batters in 32 innings. "The guy is a bulldog out there," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. "He's just as tough as any guy on any roster. He's going to go out there, he's going to compete. He knows how to work, he knows how to pitch. He's got No. 1 kind of stuff, and he's shown it." Eickhoff allowed a home run to David Wright in the first inning to hand the Mets a 1-0 lead. He had retired 11 consecutive batters when Yoenis Cespedes hit a two-out triple and scored on Lucas Duda's double to left field to make it 2-1 in the sixth. Phillies left fielder David Lough had a chance to catch it, but the ball deflected off the top of his glove as he dived for it. But Eickhoff showed some fight in the seventh. He allowed a leadoff single to Asdrubal Cabrera and a one-out walk to Syndergaard but settled down to strike out Curtis Granderson on a 1-2 curveball and Wright on a 2-2 curveball to end the inning. "He really gritted his teeth and went after him," Mackanin said. "That was a good test." Eickhoff punched his mitt as he walked off the mound. "I was really excited to get out of that," he said. Eickhoff has made just 11 starts in his big league career, but he is establishing himself as a key piece of the Phillies' future. Since he allowed six runs in four innings against the Red Sox in Boston on Sept. 6, 2015, Eickhoff is 3-2 with a 1.34 ERA in seven starts. He said he is not thinking about what could be in the future between the Phillies and Mets. "I'm a day-to-day guy," he said. "I try not to get too far ahead of myself, and I think a lot of us in here are [the same way]." Velasquez is another big piece of the Phillies' future. He faces the Mets on Tuesday night.

Changing Strategy – With offensive struggles looming over their heads, the Phillies needed to find an edge wherever they could -- especially against Mets 23-year-old flamethrower Noah Syndergaard on Monday night. Syndergaard doesn't have many weaknesses, but Phillies manager Pete Mackanin did his best to exploit one of them, despite it coming in a 5-2 losing effort. While Syndergaard's pitches get to the plate with speeds in the triple digits, his delivery can be slow. Coming into the game, the Phillies had three stolen bases on the season. They swiped two in two attempts against Syndergaard and took one more against Antonio Bastardo in the eighth. "We tried to take advantage of that," Mackanin said. "You try to steal off of him. He's slow to the plate. But we didn't really have enough baserunners to make that a big issue." David Lough, starting in left field the day he was called up from Triple-A Lehigh Valley, reached base twice -- once by fielder's choice against Syndergaard in his first at-bat and again with a double in the ninth inning. He was the first Phillies culprit on the basepaths, taking second after his fielder's choice. "[Syndergaard is] one of the slower guys, where you can take advantage of that," Lough said. "I think we did a good job of that. [Freddy] Galvis took one to third, I took one to second, I think [Odubel Herrera] took one to second. With the speed guys on base, we're definitely taking advantage of it." After Lough's callup, there's a handful of players who could be classified as "speed guys." Cesar Hernandez swiped 19 bags last season. Herrera took 16. Galvis had 10, but showed off his quickness on his steal of third on Monday. And Mackanin called Peter Bourjos, who only had five last year for the Cardinals but 22 in 2011, the fastest guy on the team. Postgame, Mackanin continued to express frustration in the lack of offensive production. The Philies' 36 runs in their first 14 games is tied for third fewest in franchise history in that span. "We're just not scoring enough runs," he said. "They hit four home runs, and we didn't hit any. We've gotta score more runs. We're in all the games we're playing, except a few. We just need to score." Still, rather than try to run at will in an attempt to spark the offense, Mackanin said he's going to continue reading pitchers and relying on scouting reports. "You run on pitchers who are slow to the plate," he said. "When they're quick to the plate, you don't run." Even when they stole three bases, the Phillies managed only two runs. Granted, it was against Syndergaard. One steal, Galvis' of third, did help them muster one run across with Herrera's single the next play. The other runners, however, remained stranded on second. And the Phillies remain without an answer offensively.

Recent Roster Moves – The Phillies announced Monday that they optioned outfielder Cedric Hunter to Triple-A Lehigh Valley and selected the contract of outfielder David Lough. Lough was in the lineup in the Phillies' 5-2 loss to the Mets on Monday night, playing left field. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Lough will assume the same role Hunter had, primarily sharing time with Tyler Goeddel and Darin Ruf in left. "We're just going to mix and match and see how David Lough looks," Mackanin said. "He's been in the big leagues before, so I know what to expect from him." Philadelphia has struggled to find production anywhere offensively, but the problems have been especially pronounced in the corner-outfield spots. Phillies left fielders have combined for a .248 OPS, with just three hits in 40 at-bats over the team's first 13 games. Phillies right fielders also are last in baseball with a .485 OPS. Hunter received 24 at-bats in left field, slashing .083/.120/.208. He hit .088 (3-for-34) overall. "I told Cedric this afternoon that I know he's a better hitter than he's shown," Mackanin said. "But I think he's pressing. We just had to make a move to get something jump-started." Lough was among the final cuts when the Phillies headed north from Spring Training. Through six games and 25 at-bats for Lehigh Valley, he hit .280 with one double. He hit .256 with one home run, five RBIs and a team-high 10 walks in 55 plate appearances during Spring Training. "There wasn't much of a debate," Mackanin said. "We thought Lough was the best option right now." Lough posted a .555 OPS in 144 plate appearances last season with the Orioles. He has a .672 OPS in 741 career plate appearances. Lough hopes a more patient approach at the plate will help him produce with the Phillies. "In the past I've always been an aggressive hitter," Lough said. "I didn't draw a lot of walks. But this offseason, it's about being what type of hitter I am. It's getting on base, it's scoring a lot of runs, it's stealing bases, playing good defense. So I went into spring with a different mindset and approach at the plate. I obviously drew some walks and felt good at the plate in the spring, and it carried into the Triple-A season." Will Venable, whom the Phillies signed near the end of Spring Training, was thought to be another option, but Mackanin said he hasn't been hitting enough at Triple-A. Venable has three hits in 24 at-bats for Lehigh Valley. Prior to Monday's game, the Phillies also acquired Minor League outfielder Alfredo Marte from the Orioles for cash or a player to be named. Marte has played parts of three seasons in the Majors, most recently getting six at-bats for the Angels last season. In his career, the 27-year-old has a .532 OPS in 170 plate appearances. He had been playing for the Norfolk Tides, the Orioles' Triple-A affiliate, to start 2016.

Where’s Radar Man? – There have been a handful of hot topics for Phillies fans the first couple weeks of the season. There is Vince Velasquez, the corner outfielders, the closer, the leadoff hitter and that guy behind home plate with the radar gun. Yeah, what happened to that guy? That guy is Phillies' advance scouting analyst Chris Cashman, and observant Phillies fans have noticed his absence this season and wondered why he is no longer sitting behind home plate at Citizens Bank Park. From 2008-15, Cashman sat behind home plate and used a radar gun and walkie talkie to relay pitch velocity and pitch types to the folks running Phanavision. They put his report on the scoreboard in right field, so fans could see how many times Ken Giles threw his fastball 100 mph. "A lot of people have been asking me where I went," Cashman said before Monday night's game against the Mets at Citizens Bank Park, "but more people have been asking my family members. People my dad used to work with. My sister's friends and parents. It's pretty crazy how many people are concerned." Cashman, 30, is doing just fine. The Phillies simply figured Cashman could make better use of his time. Besides, everything is automated these days. "It was a good experience," Cashman said. "I read the scouting reports on the pitchers we were about to face, and then going down there and seeing them I formed my own opinions, but I also saw what the scouts were seeing. It definitely helped me learn the game and understand pitchers." The Phillies no longer employ an advance scout, but Cashman does the work of one. He puts together advance scouting reports based on video, subscription services and other in-house data. He spent Monday working on reports about the Brewers, who play the Phillies in a three-game series beginning Friday in Milwaukee. Cashman now spends his time during games at Citizens Bank Park sitting with the rest of the scouts a few rows further back. He said he still gets recognized from regulars in the Diamond Club and no wonder. From the time Cashman, an Archbishop Carroll and St. Joseph's grad, became a full-time Phillies employee in 2010, he said he missed just five games in six seasons. "I think I served my time down there," Cashman said with a laugh.

Today In Phils History – The history of the day begins in historic fashion for the Phillies who still hold the opening day record for combined runs scored in a game when they defeated the Boston Braves 19-17 in 1900. Another unique matchup occurred 56 years later when the Phillies lost to the Brooklyn Dodgers in the first game ever played in New Jersey. Debuts have also played a big role including those of Phil Collins (long before his genesis days in 1929), Wayne LaMaster in 1937, and Emmett "Heinie" Mueller who hit a homerun in his first major league at bat in 1938. 10 years later, a pending major league debut was put in jeopardy as Richie Ashburn suffered a neck sprain in an exhibition game against Villanova. Fortunately, he recovered quickly and made his major league debut the next day. In recent history, on this day Vance Worley struck out 11 in the Phillies 12th straight win over the Padres at Petco Park which, not surprisingly, remains the franchise record for consecutive wins at a visiting stadium.

The Phillies are currently 6-8 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 41-50-1 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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