Friday, May 27, 2016

Interesting Questions Surface During The Rest Day

GAME RECAP: No Game Yesterday
Phillies take some time to recover from a rough couple of series and to try and find the fire they had before their recent struggles.

  • Phillies leadoff hitter Odubel Herrera is tied for sixth in the NL batting race with a .327 average. He hit a three-run homer on Wednesday in Detroit.
  • Cubs outfielder Dexter Fowler is 9-for-27 in his last six games. He is 2-for-3 lifetime against Morgan.
  • The Cubs have cooled off a little bit from their hot start to the season, going 4-6 in their past 10 games. But they took two out of three against the division-rival Cardinals. 

The Phillies open a three-game series at Wrigley Field on Friday, with Adam Morgan (1-2, 5.61 ERA) taking the mound against Cubs left-hander Jon Lester (4-3, 2.60 ERA). Morgan gave up two runs in six innings in his last start against the Braves, a bounce-back performance after giving up seven earned runs on eight hits against the Reds in the outing before that. He's faced the Cubs only once in his career, losing to them last season after allowing four runs on seven hits over five innings. Lester will look to have a similar type of comeback outing after he got rocked for five earned runs in 2 2/3 innings at San Francisco last Saturday. He is 4-0 lifetime against Philadelphia, with a 1.76 ERA and a 0.93 WHIP.


More Questions And Answers From Todd Zolecki – If the Phillies continue to win, will they be buyers before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline? -- Corey K., Media, PA. How many people thought this question would be asked in May? Not many, I assume. The Phillies are one of baseball's best stories this season, but let's let things play out. Only 14 teams in the past 10 seasons have finished .500 or better despite being outscored. The 2009 Mariners were the most fortunate of the bunch, finishing 85-77 despite a -52 run differential. (Only four teams in baseball history have made the postseason despite being outscored.) The Phils are on pace to be outscored by 107 runs, so the odds are not in their favor. But OK, let's say the Phillies keep winning close games and defy the odds. I can see them buying before the Trade Deadline, but not in the way they have in the past when they acquired Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence. Those teams were going for the kill, sacrificing top young talent for the final piece to push them over the top. The 2016 Phillies are not a piece away, and they are still very much geared toward the future. For that reason, if the Phils acquire talent, they will not sacrifice one of their top prospects in the process. No, I think something more likely will be acquiring a player in a salary dump, or acquiring somebody of a more modest means. Think less about talents comparable to Lee, Oswalt and Pence and more about talents like Joe Blanton, who cost the Phillies relatively little in 2008. But if you're wondering if Philadelphia would trade prospects like Nick Williams and Zach Eflin for a two-month rental, I would be absolutely stunned. Phils president Andy MacPhail and general manager Matt Klentak have a plan in place, and they have stuck to it. I would be floored if they suddenly tossed that aside. What is going to happen with Ryan Howard? -- John G., Mt. Laurel, N.J. It is sometimes helpful to read between the lines. Pete Mackanin said in Spring Training he planned to platoon Howard and Darin Ruf at first. He held true to form, despite their struggles. Then once Tommy Joseph replaced Ruf on the 25-man roster, Mackanin said he still planned to platoon Howard at first base. But if you notice, Mackanin said earlier this week he now plans to evaluate the situation weekly. "At some point, it may come to that, but I wouldn't say it's imminent," Mackanin said about Joseph winning the first-base job. The door is ajar. The Phillies are playing well, despite Howard hitting .160 with a .585 OPS. But they need offense, and if Joseph hits consistently, he will get more playing time. What happens to Howard after that will be interesting. Howard showed leadership earlier this week when he pulled Odubel Herrera aside after he failed to hustle to first base. I'm not sure anybody else on the team could do that, other than maybe Carlos Ruiz. If Joseph starts playing more regularly, perhaps Howard adjusts to a backup role, mentoring the young players on the roster while playing a couple times a week. He could be released too, although I would be guessing if I said I thought it would happen. But I will say Howard's attitude has been remarkable this season. I think he sees the end is near and he is trying to make the best of it. That doesn't help the Phillies' offense, but it is worth noting.

Minor Performances – A pair of Phillies' top prospects had three-hit games in Lehigh Valley's win over Pawtucket. J.P. Crawford, the No. 3 overall prospect (Phillies' No. 1), scored a pair of runs in the game, but more importantly, he found his stroke offensively. Since he was promoted to Triple-A, Crawford got off to a bit of a slow start. The shortstop went 3-for-15 over his first four games, but on Thursday night everything was clicking as Crawford went 3-for-5. But Crawford wasn't the only Phillies' farmhand to have a good night at the plate. Nick Williams, Philadelphia's No. 3 prospect, was a perfect 3-for-3 at the plate and raised his average to .279.

Crawford Catching Attention – Here's a look at top prospects to watch Friday in Minor League action: Hitter to watch: J.P. Crawford (Phillies' No. 1) Lehigh Valley vs. Louisville. Crawford, the No. 3 overall prospect, got off to a bit of a slow start when he was promoted to Triple-A, but the young shortstop may be finding his rhythm. After going 3-for-15 over his first five games with the IronPigs, Crawford went 3-for-5 and scored a pair of runs Thursday, generating some momentum that he'd like to build on at 7:05 p.m. ET on MiLB.TV.

Today In Phils History – During the same game that the Giants’ Casey Stengel was ejected in 1923, the Phillies Cy Williams set a new major league homerun record when he hit his 15th of the month. Speaking of homeruns, today marks 2 years since Ben Revere, after 1,566 career at bats, hit his first major league homerun. On the mound, Pretzel Pezzullo got start and the win in his major league debut in 1935 but lost his start the following day. In 1973, pitcher Wayne Twitchell struck out for a record 9th consecutive time at the plate.  

The Phillies are currently 26-21 this season putting them on pace to beat 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 47-55-1 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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