Thursday, May 5, 2016

Phillies Bullpen Falters Against Cardinals

GAME RECAP: Cardinals Edge Phillies 5-4

Despite Ryan Howard's best attempts to propel the Phillies to another win in his hometown, the Cardinals stunned Philadelphia with a two-run ninth to celebrate their first walk-off win of the season, a 5-4 victory in front of 40,725 at Busch Stadium on Wednesday. The Cardinals entered the ninth behind by two, but immediately stirred against closer Jeanmar Gomez. Pinch-hitter Kolten Wong opened the inning with a seven-pitch walk and moved to third when pinch-hitter Matt Adams drove a ball off the top of the wall in center. Stephen Piscotty plated the tying run with an infield single before Matt Holliday snuck a single to left for the win. "That guy's a sinker ball pitcher, and I thought he might try to pitch me in," Holliday said after collecting his eighth career walk-off RBI. "So I wanted to see a pitch and was just trying to hit a ball hard. It was an important game for us to win." The blown save was Gomez's first in 10 opportunities. "I'm disappointed in the first hitter," Gomez said. "The first hitter I had the walk, he tied the game. I have to make a good pitch in that situation." While the Cardinals snagged a win, starter Mike Leake still hasn't. He retired the first 10 batters he faced before being ambushed in the fourth. A single and walk brought the inning to Howard, who belted a 2-0 pitch into the center-field grass for his 23rd career home run against the Cardinals. A solo homer from Odubel Herrera the following inning nudged the Phillies' lead to four and kept Leake winless in his first six starts with the team. Phillies starter Adam Morgan eased through four innings before being chased in a fifth-inning that saw the Cardinals score three runs with the help of two replay reviews. It marked the Cardinals' second comeback out of a four-run deficit this season. "You can absolutely build on it," Piscotty said. "It's a lot of fun to jump around kind of like idiots out in center field."

  • Howard's 421-foot home run to center field in the fourth was his second in as many nights. The native St. Louisan continues to feast on Cardinals pitching. He is hitting .336 with 23 home runs and 69 RBIs and is averaging a home run every 10.6 at-bats for his career against the Cardinals.
  • Gomez couldn't convert his 10th save in as many opportunities. Piscotty's infield single scored Wong to tie the game and Holliday's walk-off single handed Gomez his first loss of the season. "I mean he's not infallible and like I said he got himself into a jam but I went out there and told him let's get a ground ball and get out of here," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "And he got us a ground ball so what else can he do? Ground balls find holes."
  • Herrera has hit safely in all seven of his career games at Busch Stadium, going 12-for-28 in all. Before Wednesday, he had hit only one first-pitch homer in his career.
  • The umpires ended up turning to replay four different times in Wednesday's game, totaling nine minutes and three seconds of stoppage times. The first two reviews helped the Cardinals to a three-run fifth inning. The umpires first went to replay to get a better look at Ruben Tejada's ground ball down the left-field line. After a 5-minute, 1-second review, Tejada was awarded a leadoff double.
  • Tejada then came around to score on another play that was eventually reviewed to determine if Eric Fryer had slid in safe behind him. That call stood. Neither Mackanin nor Morgan used the seven-plus minutes of review time as an excuse for his fifth-inning struggles. "I don't want to make that as an excuse and I'm sure Adam doesn't because he's very accountable," Mackanin said. "And you know long innings are long innings no matter what the reason."
  • The Phillies were awarded a ninth-inning single on a call that was overturned with replay, and crew chief Mark Carlson took the headset one final time in the ninth to confirm that Adams' drive to center hadn't cleared the wall. "There are just going to be those nights where you have one close play after another," Matheny said. "We have to take our time and look at it. We have the technology there. We're not out here to rush through this thing. We have to get it right."
Jerad Eickhoff (1-3, 4.15 ERA) will be looking for his first win since April 13 in the finale of a four-game series Thursday at 1:45 EST. The right-hander has never faced the Cardinals and is coming off a no-decision against Cleveland in which he gave up three runs in six innings.


Bullpen Buckles – Jeanmar Gomez has learned the exhilaration of getting the 27th out in a game. On Wednesday, the Phillies closer learned the agony of defeat. Gomez blew his first save attempt of the season, giving up two runs in the ninth as the Cardinals edged the Phillies, 5-4. Gomez (2-1) got into trouble right away, walking Kolten Wong to lead off the ninth. "I'm disappointed in the first hitter," Gomez said. "The first hitter I had the walk, he tied the game. I have to make a good pitch in that situation." Matt Adams drove a ball off the top of the center-field wall to put runners at second and third with one out. The Cardinals asked for a crew chief review to determine if it was a home run, but after 34 second review the call stood. Gomez then intentionally walked Aledmys Diaz to load the bases, but Stephen Piscotty's infield single off of Freddy Galvis' glove scored Wong to tie it. Carlos Martinez, pinch-running for Adams, strayed off third base on the play and was out in a rundown. Diaz advanced to third during the rundown. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin questioned crew chief Mark Carlson whether Cardinals third base coach Chris Maloney interfered, allowing Diaz to take third. "I asked and he said the third base umpire signaled it didn't interfere with the play," Mackanin said. Diaz then easily scored on Matt Holliday's single to left to end the game. After allowing the two runs, Gomez's ERA jumped to 2.70. "We walked five guys and three of them scored so the walks kind of hurt us," Mackanin said. "But like I said, Gomez walked the leadoff guy, which I wasn't real happy about, but then he had a situation to get a ground ball. That's what we wanted him to do, and he gave us a ground ball that found a hole." Gomez's struggles undid what had been a strong performance by the Phillies bullpen as four relievers had combined for four shutout innings to preserve a one-run lead. Colton Murray got the Phillies out of a two-on, no-out jam in the fifth. Starter Adam Morgan had already allowed three runs in the inning, but Murray got Holliday to ground into a double play and he got Randal Grichuk to ground to short. Andrew Bailey pitched around a two-out hit in the seventh and Hector Neris was aided by a great catch at the left field wall by Tyler Goeddel to rob Jedd Gyorko of extra bases. "For me, our team had battled all game and to have a blown save you feel bad because the whole team played hard," Gomez said. "You think about the mistakes you made today and try not to do it the next game."

Successful Split – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin calls Hector Neris' split-finger fastball an invisible pitch. More and more opponents may start to agree. Neris has gained confidence with the pitch with every outing this season. Combine his new-found willingness to throw the splitter in any count with a mid-90's fastball and it's a potent late-inning combination. Neris has racked up 27 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings with a 1.10 ERA. He struck out all three Cardinals he faced in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 1-0 Phillies win, setting the tone with his first pitch. "Yesterday the first pitch he threw to the first hitter he faced was a split for a strike," Mackanin said. "Once the hitter sees that, you can't sit on a fastball." Having the confidence to throw the split at any time is the biggest difference for Neris this season, which is exactly what the Phillies wanted to see. "It's such a good pitch," Mackanin said. "Last year, we kept thinking, boy if he could just get to that and use it more often, that it could be an effective pitch. But last year he was waiting, trying to get ahead with his fastball and he couldn't. He couldn't locate his fastball well enough to get ahead with it." Neris said he learned the split-finger from Jose Paulino, his coach in his native Dominican Republic. Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez and Dalier Hinojosa are also starting to throw a splitter. They have asked Neris how he throws his. Neris actually has two different splitters: One goes straight down and the other tails. He said he can control it with his grip. "It's hard to lay off of," Mackanin said. "You can see the movement on the pitch. When it gets right into the zone and he keeps it down. He can keep it down in the zone and when a guy throws 93-94 [mph] like he does, you have to hit off the fastball and so you see it, you go after it and it just disappears on you."

Defensive Upgrade – Peter Bourjos burned his former team Tuesday night with his best weapon -- his glove. Bourjos' sliding catch in right field on a tailing line drive off the bat of Randal Grichuk in the fourth more than likely saved a run as Yadier Molina had a good jump off of first with two outs. Aaron Nola and Ryan Howard did the rest in the Phillies' 1-0 win over the Cardinals. "At first when it was hit I was like, 'Alright, I've got a good jump, I think I'm going to get there,' and then it kept slicing away, slicing away and that's when I was like, 'Oh boy, I think I'm going to have to dive for this,'" Bourjos said. Grichuk made sure he let his friend know how he felt about his glove work before Wednesday's game. "He was giving me a hard time about it," Bourjos said. "I just saw him in the dugout. I said you never hit the ball to right, hit it to left like you normally do. It was pretty funny." All kidding aside, Bourjos has brought a strong defensive component to the Phillies' outfield that the team has lacked in the past. "In the past, we've had outfielders who could catch the ball, but didn't have a lot of coverage," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Now we've got guys who can cover a lot of ground. … Just that one play was one of the biggest parts, if not the biggest part, of the game." Bourjos, who has mainly played center field, has had to adjust to playing right and left for the Phillies. "I'm getting more and more comfortable out there," Bourjos said. "It's a process, it's a learning curve. In center you can see everything that's going on, the ball doesn't slice as much. In right and left the ball starts slicing and you can't see where the pitch is and start reacting a little sooner." Bourjos has struggled so far at the plate, hitting .169 in 77 at-bats. But Mackanin said he's won three or four games using his speed to make stellar catches. "He's got a great makeup," Mackanin said. "He knows what his job is and he doesn't take his at-bats onto the field, which we try to point that out to everybody. You don't have to point that out to him. He takes pride in his defense." Bourjos believes his hitting will come around. "I think I need to stay on top of the baseball and stay in right center," Bourjos said. "If I do that and put the ball in play, the average will start going up and I'll be able to help the team win on the offensive side too."

Today In Phils History – Today is not just known as the day that the Phillies acquired Robert Person in 1999, there are also a few interesting moments in team history. The first of which occurred in 1896 when Dan Brouthers went deep… the Phillies were the 10th team for which he hit a homerun which is still a MLB record. In 1938, Wayne LeMaster got the loss despite only throwing three pitches before leaving with an injury thanks in part to the performance of Harold Kelleher who in the 6th inning faced 16 batters and surrendered 12 runs to the Cubs, both NL records for a single inning by one pitcher. However, leave it to Jim Bunning to provide the bright spot for the day when he threw a 4 hit shutout and hit a homerun (the only Phillies run of the game) against Warren Spahn in 1965.

The Phillies are currently 16-12 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 39-54-0 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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