Saturday, May 21, 2016

Nola And Phillies Fall Back Down To Earth

GAME RECAP: Braves Blast Phillies 7-1

Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis extended an unexpected power surge as they combined to record three home runs that backed Matt Wisler's strong start and helped the Braves claim Friday night's 7-1 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Freeman drilled a two-run shot off Aaron Nola in the third inning and added another in the ninth inning against Brett Oberholtzer to complete the seventh multi-homer game of his career and his first multi-RBI game of the season. Markakis also hit a two-run shot in the seventh inning, during which Nola was dinged for three unearned runs. The Braves have hit nine home runs over their past five games, equaling what they had totaled over the 36 games played before Monday. "That's good to see, Freddie getting hot, and Nick swung the bat really well tonight," Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. "Matt Wisler was really good. He had a little trouble at the beginning of the ballgame, but he settled in. It's fun watching him. He did a really good job." The Braves have hit nine home runs over their past five games, equaling what they had totaled over the 36 games played before Monday. On the flip side, Nola had not allowed a homer since April 16, and Freeman's home run in the third inning was the first Nola gave up in 36 innings. Wisler recovered from the command issues he experienced during the first inning and matched a season-high seven strikeouts while limiting the Phillies to one run over 6 2/3 innings. The Braves have now won three games during each of their past two road trips. They have gone 2-17 at home.

  • Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco made two errors, doubling his season total. Franco was charged with his first on the first play of the game as Braves leadoff man Ender Inciarte hit a shot down the third-base line. Franco made another gaffe in the seventh inning, allowing Mallex Smith to reach on a two-base error as his throw sailed into the stands. Smith came around to score to put Atlanta ahead, 3-1. Franco was almost charged with a third error in the eighth inning after he bobbled an Erick Aybar grounder, but Aybar was called out at first after a replay review. "It was a tough moment, I want to make every play," Franco said. "Today just happened, it's part of the game. I'm going to try to forget it."
  • Cameron Rupp provided two of the Phillies' six hits, going 2-for-4 with a double. It was Rupp's first multi-hit game since April 19 (14 games), but the catcher was stranded on second base in both the fourth and sixth innings.
  • The Braves won their first challenge of the season when a replay review awarded Smith an infield single in the third inning. Atlanta had been unsuccessful with each of its 10 previous challenges.
  • The Phillies won a challenge when a replay review overturned first-base umpire Gerry Davis' ruling that Aybar safely reached on what would have been Franco's third error of the night.
Philadelphia will look to even the series behind Adam Morgan. The left-hander's lone win of the season came against the Braves on May 10, when he allowed one run in seven strong innings.


Not The Same Nola – Two swings of the bat hurt Aaron Nola on Friday night, and to his displeasure, they both came with two outs and one runner on base. Nola, who had not given up a home run since April 16, was taken deep by both Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis in the Phillies' 7-1 loss to the Braves. Nola gave up five runs (just two were earned) in seven innings, and all but one came via those long balls. Freeman put Atlanta ahead in the third inning, when he sent the first pitch he saw over the right-field wall. Markakis, a left-handed hitter like Freeman, went the opposite way in the seventh inning as his two-run shot -- Markakis' first homer this season -- broke the game open. Both blasts came on fastballs Nola left over the plate. "Solo home runs are better [than two-run homers]," the right-hander said afterward. "That kind of hurt me, those two, two-run home runs. I made some mistakes. That ball to Freddie leaked over the plate too much, I was trying to go a little farther inside. And that ball to Markakis, I left it over the middle." Nola entered the game with just three homers allowed in 53 innings this season, and the last one he gave up was to Bryce Harper. He had gone 36 consecutive innings without giving up a home run before Freeman's blast. Freeman added a second two-run shot in the ninth off Brett Oberholtzer. Nola did strike out six batters -- doing so mostly with his changeup or curveball. But the 22-year-old did not get much aid from the Phillies' offense or defense. The Phillies could not solve Braves starter Matt Wisler, scoring their only run in the first inning on a Ryan Howard groundout. They did not have a runner advance past second base in the final eight innings. Philadelphia did not have a strong night with its gloves, either. Third baseman Maikel Franco was charged with two errors. His first came on the first batter of the game as he could not handle a sharply hit ball off Ender Inciarte's bat. Franco's second defensive gaffe was more costly. He did not field Mallex Smith's seventh-inning grounder cleanly and threw the ball away, allowing Smith to reach second base with no outs. Smith scored when Gordon Beckham hit a blooper over a drawn-in infield, and Markakis made it a four-run game two batters later. Franco doubled his error total for the season and nearly had a third error in the eighth inning, when he bobbled an Erick Aybar grounder. However, Franco was off the hook when Aybar was called out after a replay review. "It was a tough moment, I want to make every play," Franco said. "Today just happened, it's part of the game. I'm going to try to forget it." Added Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: "Everybody goes through a stretch where they're not playing their best, and Maikel is in that little lull. I think he's letting his at-bats carry over to his defense a little bit. "But he's been working extra, he's been doing everything we're asking him to do. He just needs to get out of the funk he's in and put together a good game or two in a row and get back on track."

Moving On Up – J.P. Crawford is one step closer to the big leagues. The Phillies announced Friday morning that they had promoted Crawford, who considers the third-best prospect in baseball, from Double-A Reading to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Crawford hit .265 with eight doubles, three home runs, 13 RBIs and a .787 OPS in 166 plate appearances with Reading. He walked 30 times and struck out 21 times. He also stole five bases. "He's ready," Phillies player development director Joe Jordan said. Coincidentally, Crawford homered Thursday night in his final game with Reading. "We looked at the box score and thought, 'Heck, let's send him to Triple-A,'" Jordan joked. Of course, the reality is the organization had targeted May 20 for Crawford's promotion. Including last season, Crawford had 571 plate appearances with Reading, giving him a good test at that level. The timing also worked, as Reading finished a six-game road trip Thursday, and Lehigh Valley opens a three-game homestand Friday night against Toledo. "J.P. has done just fine at Double-A," Jordan said. "We all believe he's going to be a really, really good player. I just think there comes a point in time -- and it's probably been like this for a little while -- he's had his eyes set on Allentown, and maybe to some degree it's been a distraction. But his work has been good. "I like the idea of him being on that club, being on a little older roster, to some degree. Good influences in that clubhouse. It's fun. It's time to go." The next question is: could Crawford join the Phillies before the end of the season? They entered Friday night's series opener against the Braves at 24-17, just a game out of first place in the National League East. Phils shortstop Freddy Galvis was hitting .238 with a .639 OPS in 157 plate appearances. His OPS ranks 19th out of 25 qualified shortstops, but his defense has been tremendous. Galvis is fifth out of 29 qualified shortstop in Defensive Runs Above Average at 5.8, according to FanGraphs. This measures a player's defensive value relative to league average. It is not a stretch to think Galvis could move to second base to replace Cesar Hernandez, who has also posted a .639 OPS, when Crawford is ultimately promoted to the big leagues. Galvis played brilliantly at second base in 2012 and '13 in place of an injured Chase Utley. "That's an organizational decision, and a lot of people will be involved in that," said Jordan, when asked about Crawford's presumed promotion to the big leagues. "There will be different challenges in Triple-A that you don't face at Double-A, just with the style of pitching and the veteran pitchers he's going to face. He needs to go experience that. I really believe that he's going to do well." Phillies manager Pete Mackanin got to do some work with Crawford in Spring Training and said Friday he thinks the shortstop "obviously has a lot of talent." Mackanin added he thought the Phillies' early success makes it easier to let players develop longer in the Minors. "The fact that we're playing and winning makes it a lot easier to give them even more time," Mackanin said. "To me, there's no rush to get anybody up here right now as long as we're holding our own. I think it's in the best interest of our guys who could possibly help to get extra Minor League at-bats." Crawford has performed well at every level so far. There is no reason to think he will not produce at Triple-A. "He's a player that obviously is talked about a lot," Jordan said. "We're counting on him being a good Major League player for us at some point in the future. It's just a new challenge. We trust the guy. It's time for him to face another level."

Today In Phils History – In 1936 the Phillies welcomed back Chuck Klein for his second of three tours with the team. In a few oddities the Phillies were first caught in a triple play in 1950 without ever making contact with the ball, the team struck out 16 times against future teammate Steve Carlton in 1970 who, in 1976, would help the Phillies in winning their 13th straight road game setting the franchise record, and Brian Hunter led the squad to a grand victory in 2000 by hitting one of a record 6 grand slams in the major leagues that day. Other events from the day include an 18 inning walk off win against the Reds in 1967 and Pete Rose’s first appearance at a Phillie on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1979.

The Phillies are currently 24-18 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 47-48-1 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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