Monday, May 2, 2016

Phillies Edge Indians In Repeat Performance

GAME RECAP: Phillies Sweep Indians 2-1

Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez continues to live up to the hype. He pitched six scoreless innings Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 victory over the Indians at Citizens Bank Park. Freddy Galvis singled to score a run in the third, while Indians pitcher Danny Salazar balked in the Phillies' second run. The Phillies swept the series, extending their winning streak to six games. It is the first time the Phillies (15-10) have swept back-to-back series since Sept. 7-12, 2012, when they swept the Rockies and Marlins. "For us to do what we're doing right now, we're surprising a lot of people and I think that's what we expected coming in from Spring Training from Day 1," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. Salazar pitched well, but the Indians offered no help until Carlos Santana hit a solo homer in the ninth against Hector Neris, who earned the first save of his career. Salazar allowed three hits, two runs and struck out eight in seven innings. "It was incredible, man," Neris said of earning the save. "They gave me the opportunity and I'm trying to do well for my team and myself. I'm doing something to help my team win. When I can do that, it's good. When you can do that you can be happy.”

  • Velasquez, who was the key piece in the Ken Giles trade with Houston in December, walked two consecutive batters to start the fourth inning before having the Phillies' grounds crew repair a wet mound. He cruised from there, retiring the final nine batters he faced. He allowed just two hits, four walks and struck out six in scoreless innings, making this the third time in five starts he has not allowed a run. He threw 103 pitches, otherwise he might have pitched longer. "I'm just going with the flow," Velasquez said. "I'm not trying to get my hopes up. I'm really not trying to get to a certain amount of wins or have a certain ERA. I told you guys from the beginning that my job is to help the team win." 
  • Darin Ruf started in left field because the Phillies wanted his bat in the lineup. But then he made a great diving catch to end the fourth inning, stranding runners on first and second. "Initially, I kind of broke over and up," Ruf said. "I just kept that line and luckily it was the right one. It's crazy we're sitting here talking about my defense and not that I'm swinging the bat well or something. But any way you can help the team when you're struggling offensively."
  • "I choose not to look at it that way. Those thoughts do creep in occasionally and we know we need a little more offense. But, pitching and defense wins games. That's the old adage. As long as we're in the game, we feel like we can win. So, of course I would like to get some more offense out of our guys. And I think we will, little by little. For right now, I choose to believe we're as good as our record." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on concerns the winning won't last with the offense averaging only 3.3 runs per game.
  • Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera's career-high on-base streak (21 games) and hitting streak (11 games) came to an end. He went 0-for-3. The Phillies bullpen's scoreless streak was snapped at 20 innings. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the last time the Phillies' bullpen had a scoreless streak of 20 or more innings was Sept. 1-11, 2004, when they had a 28-inning scoreless streak.
  • After Rajai Davis singled with two outs in the seventh, David Hernandez attempted to pick the speedy Davis off first. He was ruled safe initially, but after Mackanin challenged, replay officials overturned the call and ended the inning. The throw beat Davis back, and it was a matter of whether Howard applied the tag. Replay showed Howard's glove just grazed Davis' right arm. Mackanin now has a 50 percent success rate, going 5-for-10 in reviews.
The Phillies open a 10-game road trip Monday at 8:15 p.m. ET against the Cardinals at Busch Stadium, where right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (2-1, 3.81 ERA) faces right-hander Adam Wainwright (1-3, 7.16 ERA). By the time the Phillies finish the trip on May 12 in Atlanta, they will have played 16 of their last 19 games on the road.


Another Great Performance – It seems only a wet mound could slow Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. He walked Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana on just nine pitches to start the fourth inning in a 2-1 victory over the Indians. He summoned the Phillies' grounds crew to fix the mound, which had become soaked from a steady rain. Finally in better shape and Velasquez feeling more comfortable with his footing, he retired the final nine batters he faced. "He should have asked them to fix it to start, I guess," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. "It was one of those things where he thought he was comfortable and obviously he wasn't. He just wasn't anywhere near the zone. But he settled back in after that and man, he really threw the ball well for us." Velasquez allowed two hits, four walks and struck out six in six scoreless innings to improve to 4-1 with a 1.44 ERA. He has allowed 18 hits, eight runs (five earned runs), 10 walks and has struck out 39 in 31 1/3 innings. He has not allowed a run in three of his five starts as the Phillies (15-10) have won six consecutive games and have swept consecutive series for the first time since Sept. 7-12, 2012, when they swept the Rockies and Marlins. Velasquez has been better than advertised as the key piece in the Ken Giles trade with Houston in December. "I'm neutral," Velasquez said about his performance through five starts. "I'm just going with the flow. I'm not trying to get my hopes up. I'm really not trying to get to a certain amount of wins or have a certain ERA. I told you guys from the beginning that my job is to help the team win. Whatever my job is to do as a pitcher, I've got to do it." The Phillies' rotation is doing its job. It has a 3.40 ERA, striking out 162 batters in 143 innings. If only the Phillies' offense could keep pace. It benefited from a balk from Indians pitcher Danny Salazar in the third inning, which proved to be the winning run. But overall the offense is averaging just 3.3 runs per game. "I think we'll be fine," Velasquez said. "We're doing great. Nothing to be worried about. Just keep on enjoying the ride and go from there."

Filling In – Phillies right-hander Hector Neris tucked the baseball into his backpack Sunday evening at Citizens Bank Park. It sat right on top, perhaps so he could keep an eye on it. "I won't lose it," he said, laughing. Neris, 26, recorded the first save of his big league career in a 2-1 victory over the Indians, and he kept the ball to remember the moment. He allowed a solo home run to Carlos Santana with one out to cut the Phillies' lead to one, but he got Yan Gomes to line out to left field for the second out and he struck out Tyler Naquin swinging on an 88-mph splitter to end the game, clinching a second consecutive series sweep for the Phillies. Neris removed his cap and raised both arms toward the sky after Naquin swung and missed. He is feeling pretty good these days. "I don't have time to be mad," he said, laughing again. Neris pitched because Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez, who is 8-for-8 in save opportunities, had pitched four times in the past five days and was not available. But the fact Neris got the call at all is a testament to how well he has performed this season. He entered Spring Training a candidate to make the Phillies' bullpen as a middle reliever. But a lethal splitter has turned him into a late-inning standout for a bullpen that has posted a 2.89 ERA in its last 20 games. "Neris is one of those guys -- you have them in every organization - where they've got a good arm and good stuff but they don't command their pitches," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Neris learned how to do that, or all of a sudden started doing that. We told him late in the spring to start throwing that split more than he has been. He shows us that he's got good command of it. Even when it's down in the dirt, it's tough to lay off of as a hitter." Neris has a 1.17 ERA in 14 appearances. In 15 1/3 innings, he has allowed just seven hits, two runs, four walks and has struck out 24. He entered the afternoon with a 0.63 ERA, which ranked first among National League relievers. His 23 strikeouts also led NL relievers. "It was incredible, man," Neris said of pitching in the ninth. "They gave me the opportunity and I'm trying to do well for my team and myself. I'm doing something to help my team win. When I can do that, it's good. When you can do that you can be happy."

Today In Phils History – This day is full of odd occurrences for the Phillies. The first is the opening of the rebuilt grandstand at Philadelphia Park (replacing one that burnt down the previous August) in 1895. Today’s game in 1943 saw a pitcher, Schoolboy Rowe, hit a pinch-hit grand slam during a 6-5 win over Boston becoming the first Phillies pitcher to do so. In 1957, Robin Roberts fanned 13 in a 4-2 win over the Cubs which tied a club record. However, the odd part of the matchup game in the 9th when Roberts recorded the team's only assist of the game. A trifecta of catchers all saw action on this day in 1970 as Tim McCarver broke his hand on a foul tip and Mike Ryan broke his hand three batters later after being spiked on a play at the plate. Jim Hutto finished the game behind the plate. Three years later, in an odd move, the Phillies traded Deron Johnson to Athletics. 1977 was marked by Greg Luzinski hitting his first home run at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, giving him at least one in every National League park. Four years later, on his 27th birthday, Keith Moreland hits back-to-back home runs to lead the team to a 3-1 win over San Francisco. Today is also marked by a loss to the Atlanta Braves in 2007 when the player with the longest name in major-league history debuted, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Six years later Juan Pierre, who spent his only season with the team the year prior, became the 13th player to reach the 600 stolen base milestone. However, the saddest memory of this day is in the final homerun hit by Mike Schmidt, his 548th (7th most in MLB history at the time) in 1989. I guess there is something odd to that being the keystone event of the day.

The Phillies are currently 15-10 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 47-48-0 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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