Friday, May 6, 2016

Offense Disappears As Cardinals Blank Phillies

GAME RECAP: Cardinals Shutout Phillies 4-0

After a string of three subpar starts, Jaime Garcia looked in ideal form on Thursday as he pitched the Cardinals to a 4-0 victory and series win over the Phillies at Busch Stadium. Garcia may well have gone the distance had the Cardinals not opted to replace him with a seventh-inning pinch-hitter in an effort to run up their one-run lead. The move worked, too, as a two-out, two-run single by Stephen Piscotty capped a three-run inning. "We need offense," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of pulling Garcia when he did. "We have an opportunity to get more runs on the board. He got us through seven, and he did a great job of doing that." It was support Garcia didn't look like he'd even need while limiting the Phillies to two singles over seven innings. He threw 61 of his 82 pitches for strikes. "He had both sides of the plate, very good command on both sides of the plate," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He did everything you ask a pitcher to do. Throw strikes with all your pitches, change speeds, work fast. He basically had us eating out of his hand." Supported by Brandon Moss' first-inning homer of Jerad Eickhoff, Garcia retired 11 straight before allowing his first hit. Thursday's performance marked the fifth time in Garcia's career that he has held an opponent to no runs on two or fewer hits in a start of at least seven innings. Two of those outings have come this year. "I think it felt similar to what I've been doing," Garcia said. "Just today, I was able to get good plays made behind me, and I was able to get calls and make pitches when I needed to make pitches. I just have to continue to build on that."

  • The Phillies mustered one serious scoring opportunity against Garcia, and he snuffed it out with a double play that was started and finished by Moss. Taking over at first base after Matt Adams exited with an injury, Moss snared a line drive by Bourjos and then beat Tyler Goeddel back to the base to strand a runner at third. It was the only at-bat of the day the Phillies took against Garcia with a runner in scoring position. 
  • The Phillies' bullpen struggled to pitch Eickhoff out of a jam in the seventh, allowing three runs to score. Elvis Araujo walked two and allowed a run in two-thirds of an inning, and Colton Murray allowed a two-run double to Piscotty. Two of the runs were charged to Eickhoff and the other to Araujo. "I personally see it as, I need to pitch better," Eickhoff said. "There were three runs there, and all the runs there, the home run was missed location, the walk to [Yadier] Molina -- I've got to be a little more aggressive and not get behind to that guy -- and then the balk putting him in scoring position, so I've got to be stronger personally."
Vince Velasquez (4-1, 1.44 ERA) will open a three-game series at Miami on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Velasquez has won his past two decisions, including throwing six scorelss innings of two-hit baseball against Cleveland in his last start, and he will be making his first career start against the Marlins.


Offense Is MIA – The Phillies' offense suffered a double whammy on Thursday: It had few chances and did nothing with them. Philly went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, continuing an early-season trend in a 4-0 loss to the Cardinals. The Phillies are now hitting just .219 with runners in scoring position. "You look at the batting averages, and they're not the greatest," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I think these guys, they don't look like they're settled in. I'd like them to be after a month, but they're just not hitting the way they're capable of hitting." The lineup had several noticeable changes. Ryan Howard, who has scorched Cardinals pitching in his career, sat against the lefty Jaime Garcia, as did the slumping Maikel Franco. The pitcher moved back from the eight to the nine-hole. Mackanin was tempted to play Howard after he hit two home runs in the past two games, but he is a career .167 hitter against Garcia. " ... I didn't see the point of that," Mackanin said. Peter Bourjos had the best chance to dent the scoreboard with runners at first and third and just one out in the fifth. He hit a line shot, but it went right to first baseman Brandon Moss, who caught it and tagged out Tyler Goeddel to complete the unassisted double play. "Coulda, shoulda, woulda," Mackanin said. "That ball's over his head or left or right of him, and we get something going." The Phillies have tallied 90 runs scored this season, and they have scored two runs or fewer in 12 of their first 29 games. Freddy Galvis reached base twice, on a hit and an error. He raised his average to .229, still more than 30 points lower than what he hit last season. Although he, Franco and several other Phillies have gotten off to slow starts, Galvis said there is no frustration. "That's baseball right there," Galvis said. "Sometimes you're going to make some hits the whole trip. Sometimes you are going to score. Sometimes you aren't going to score runs. We have to keep working hard." Garcia was dominant through seven innings, giving up just two hits and striking out five. The Phillies are now hitting .156 (28-for-179) against left-handed starters this season. Philadelphia will face two more lefties -- Wei-Yin Chen and Justin Nicolino -- this weekend in Miami. "It's concerning, but I think one of the reasons why is we haven't seen enough lefties," Mackanin said. "I think we've seen six starting left-handers in 29 games. That's the reason a lot of lefties are effective, because they're not seen as much as righties."

An Impressive Beginning – It took a bit, but the real Andrew Bailey finally showed up for the Phillies. "His velocity has increased enough to what I expected, and his command, especially the command of his curveball," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of the right-handed reliever. "I didn't see that in Spring Training." Bailey has appeared in four games since returning from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on April 20. He hasn't given up a run in six innings, has surrendered just two hits and has struck out six. In Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the Cardinals, Bailey pitched around a two-out single to hold what was then a 4-3 Phillies lead. "I've played at this level before," Bailey said. "Coming into this spring, a healthy Spring Training, I had to put up some good outings, and they felt like I needed to start down in Triple-A. For whatever it is, we're here playing good baseball now. That's behind us, and we just keep moving forward." On April 30, Bailey earned his first win since June 18, 2013, pitching a scoreless seventh in a 4-3 win over Cleveland. "It's definitely nice to come in and, as a bullpen, do it together," Bailey said. "I was just the lucky one who got the 'W.' For me, it was a long time coming, but nothing comes easy. Hopefully, I stay healthy the rest of the season." Bailey's fastball has dipped a couple of miles per hour since his days with Oakland, when he hit 94 mph on the radar gun. But it is still in the low 90s. "His fastball has got a natural cut action to it, which is a pretty sharp cut action, which is really effective," Mackanin said. Just as important, Bailey provides veteran leadership to a young group. "For us, it's about handing the ball off to the next guy, and there's no egos down there," Bailey said. "It's easy to pitch when the group is like that."

Herrera Stays Hot – Odubel Herrera has found a home away from home at Busch Stadium. After Thursday's 4-0 loss to the Cardinals, the 24-year-old center fielder has hit safely in all eight career games at Busch Stadium, hitting .406 (13-for-32), with a homer and 6 RBIs. In the Phillies' 5-4 loss Wednesday, Herrera notched a pair of hits, including a home run that was scorched into the right-field bullpen. "I guess I hit well in this park, but I don't really know what it is," Herrera said through an interpreter. St. Louis hasn't been Herrera's only victim. He reached base safely in a career-best 21 games, stretching from April 8 to April 30. Herrera became the first Phillie since 1900 to score four runs, hit a homer and get at least two stolen bases in one game, against Milwaukee on April 23. "I'm really doing the same thing that I do every day," Herrera said. "I'm focusing on really swinging the bat well, and it's really working out for me."

Today In Phils History – Good relief pitching is hard to find and unfortunately Turk Farrell was the only man who could fill that void in 1958 when he faced 36 batters in relief and ended up losing the game in the 14th. Roger Craig fared better in 1966 when he gave up 4 runs in the 11th inning only to have his team score 5 in the bottom half of the inning to win the game setting a NL record for runs scored in an extra inning since 1900. Of course, some relievers are just odd like Larry Anderson who turns 63 today. This is also the day when the smallest crowd in Veterans Stadium history, 4,149, witnessed the lackluster Phillies lose to the Padres after a brief rain delay. Off the field, today marks 25 years since the infamous accident that cost Darren Daulton and Lenny Dykstra part of the season when Dykstra drove his car into a tree after John Kruk's bachelor party. Speaking of franchise catchers, I can’t believe it has already been a decade since Carlos Ruiz made his major league debut.

The Phillies are currently 16-13 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 39-47-0 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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