Thursday, June 30, 2016

Phillies Turn Things Around In Arizona

GAME RECAP: Phillies Sweep Diamondbacks 9-8

Pinch-hitter Tyler Goeddel drove in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th inning to lift the Phillies to a 9-8 win and a series sweep over the D-backs at Chase Field on Wednesday afternoon. Peter Bourjos and Cody Asche had consecutive one-out singles against Arizona reliever Silvino Bracho (0-2), who took the loss, followed by Goeddel's sacrifice fly to deep right that put Philadelphia ahead for good. The Phillies had a season-high 17 hits. "I can't say enough about the guys," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "In Minnesota, San Francisco and here, we just kept responding. When we gave up runs, we came back and scored runs. It was a whole different team that left Philadelphia. It's kind of like old times, but we are hitting better." After Arizona scored three runs in the seventh to take a 7-4 lead, Philadelphia immediately responded with four in the eighth, all of them charged to reliever Daniel Hudson, and took an 8-7 lead on a sacrifice fly by Asche, who drove in three runs. The D-backs tied it at 8 in the bottom of the inning on an infield RBI single by Jean Segura. "Coming into the eighth inning with a three-run lead, that's just unacceptable for me to give that up," Hudson said. "I need to get better, and I don't know how it kind of just flipped the way it did, for me personally. I've been put into some big situations and haven't performed well recently." Jeanmar Gomez (3-2) earned the win in relief for the Phillies, who have won three straight for the first time since May 12-14 and secured their first sweep since April 29-May 1. Cesar Hernandez collected four hits and Freddy Galvis added three, while Brett Oberholtzer worked the 10th for his first career save. Jake Lamb homered and Michael Bourn had four hits for the D-backs, who lost their fifth game in a row and fell to 13-28 at home this season. D-backs starter Archie Bradley allowed three runs on eight hits in six innings, posting his third quality start in six outings this month. Phillies starter Zach Eflin also went six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits. Neither starter factored into the decision. "I think it was important on this road trip to kind of take a deep breath, get away from the home ballpark a little bit and get some different views," Asche said. "Get the offense rolling and hopefully, we can keep that going into July and into the All-Star break, and we'll see where we go from there."

  • Eflin pitched in with a big hit -- a double -- in the top of the fifth. The hit was the first of his Major League career. He later scored on a double by Asche to cut Arizona's lead to 4-3. "I finally got that first one," Eflin said. "That was a good feeling. It was 0-2, and I put a good swing on it. It was a lot of fun."
  • One of the hottest hitters in baseball, Bourjos scored the game-winning run and finished 2-for-5 in the series finale at Chase Field. He racked up six hits in the series, including the crucial one-out single in the 10th inning and a two-run home run in the first inning. 
  • "He was told that this was a big year for him, and he has to do something to show us that he deserves to be with us in the future, and he's certainly making a good effort and he looks much better at the plate. Everybody is fighting for jobs, and they want to prove that they want to be here in the future." -- Mackanin, on Asche.
  • Hellickson is 1-2 with a 5.45 ERA in six starts -- a span of 33 innings -- against the Royals in his career. He's struck out 25 and walked nine.
  • Kennedy is seeking back-to-back wins for the third time this year.


The Phillies' record only tells part of the story of their season. Yes, the club is coming off its first series win since May, but the pitching staff has thrown nine shutouts this season, the most in the Major Leagues this season. Peter Bourjos has been the hottest hitter in baseball during the last few weeks, and the team's offense ranks among Major League leaders in extra-base hits, average, slugging, OPS and runs since it went on the road on June 21. Now, the Phillies are coming home after nine games on the road. After Thursday's day off, the Philllies will send Jeremy Hellickson, who allowed just one earned run in six innings Saturday at AT&T Park, to the mound against Ian Kennedy and the Royals in the first of three games at Citizens Bank Park on Friday. Kennedy struck out 11 while giving up three hits, one walk and one run against the Astros in his last outing.


Road Trip MVP – Phillies outfielder Peter Bourjos returned to Arizona and hit like he owned the place. The veteran has been feeling comfortable on the road a lot lately. Bourjos finished 2-for-5 and scored the game-winning run in the 10th inning in the Phillies' 9-8 victory that completed a sweep in the series finale at Chase Field on Wednesday. The Phillies won five of the nine games on the road trip, and Bourjos is a big reason why. "Bourjos was probably the MVP of our trip," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "The guy just turned it on and started playing like an All-Star." Overall, the outfielder racked up six hits in the series against the D-backs, including a two-run home run in the first inning to give the Phillies an early 2-0 lead. He hustled out an infield single with the game tied at 8 in the 10th and scored the deciding run on a sacrifice fly to right field by Tyler Goeddel. "I think the hitters are having better at-bats, and the pitchers are doing a good job of keeping us in games," Bourjos said. "You can really see the offense starting to take shape, and a lot of guys are starting to feel comfortable in the box and figure some things out." Bourjos finished the nine-game road trip with 17 hits in 36 at-bats. He's hitting .471 with three doubles, two triples, two home runs and eight RBIs in 17 games since June 12. It's been quite a turnaround. He was hitting .192 with a .501 OPS in 161 plate appearances through June 11. He's also raised his batting average to .262. "I think I was trying to do too much," Bourjos said. "I'm starting to realize that you don't have to swing hard to hit the ball hard." Bourjos, who was claimed off of waivers last December, grew up near Chase Field in Scottsdale, Ariz. He said most of his family was in attendance for Wednesday's game, including his father Chris Bourjos, who sat among the baseball officials behind home plate taking notes. "I live here in the winter time," Bourjos said. "My dad is a scout and the Diamondbacks are one of his teams he has to cover, so he matched up against us, of course."

See You In 2017 – The season is over for Phillies right-handed pitching prospect Mark Appel. Appel, ranked No. 4 on the Phils' Top 30 Prospects list, underwent a season-ending surgery to remove a posterior bone spur in his right elbow Wednesday in Philadelphia, according to the club. The recovery period is four to six months. Appel is expected to make a full recovery, and he should be ready for Spring Training. With Houston, Appel went 16-11 with a 5.12 ERA in 54 appearances (53 starts) in the Minor Leagues, including a 4.48 ERA in 12 starts last season with Triple-A Fresno. He was acquired by Philadelphia on Dec. 12 in the seven-player deal that sent Ken Giles to Houston. This season, Appel went 3-3 with a 4.46 ERA in 38 1/3 innings for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, with 34 strikeouts and 20 walks. Appel, the No. 1 pick in the 2013 Draft by the Astros, was placed on the disabled list at Triple-A with a right shoulder strain on May 27. Then, the issue with the elbow surfaced as he began his throwing progression while recovering from the shoulder injury. The club said Appel's shoulder is fine.

Today In Phils History – 80 years before Mike Lieberthal made his MLB debut with the Phillies another catcher was in the news as, in 1914, the federal appeals court ruled that catcher Bill Killefer was allowed to stay with the Phillies ending a long court battel with the Federal League. In 1932, Chuck Klein set the MLB record for the most homeruns by the end of June, 24, following a 2 homerun performance. 6 years later, the Phillies lost their final game at the Baker Bowl. Vice President Richard Nixon attended a Phillies game at Shibe Park on this day in 1960 as part of a fundraising campaign for the Presidency. In an interesting piece of franchise history, on this day in 1967, catcher Cookie Rojas was brought in to pitch the 9th inning of a Giants blowout which resulted in Rojas having played at least 1 game at every position for the Phillies during his career. 20 years later, Steve Bedrosian picked up his 13th consecutive save on his way to the Cy Young award. In 2004, Jim Thome hit his 15th homerun of the month setting a new franchise record for June and tying the overall record set in 1923 by Cy Williams (it was also the 44th homerun by the Phillies that month setting a new team record). Three years later, J.A. Happ made his MLB debut with the Phillies. And, finally, happy birthday to Chan Ho Park (1973) and Cody Asche (1990).  

The Phillies are currently 35-45 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 49-57-2 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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Phillies Come Back In 9th Against Diamondbacks

GAME RECAP: Phils Stun D-Backs 4-3

The Phillies came from behind to beat the D-backs, 4-3, on Tuesday night at Chase Field, striking for a pair of runs in the ninth inning to win consecutive games for the first time since May 17-18 and clinch their first series victory since then as well. "It's been May since we've done it, I think, and it was good to win, obviously," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "[Starter Jerad] Eickhoff just kept pitching himself in and out of trouble all day and he ended up with a pretty good outing." D-backs closer Brad Ziegler (2-3) blew just his second save opportunity of the year -- both coming in his last three appearances. Pinch-hitter Jimmy Paredes hit a leadoff double, then scored on a single by Andres Blanco. Veteran first baseman Ryan Howard drew a bases-loaded walk with one out for Philadelphia's go-ahead run against Ziegler, his old college teammate from Missouri State University. "I'm sure [Howard] would have preferred to hit a grand slam to win the game, but I'm sure he's happy with getting that run across with a walk," Mackanin said. "He battled." Phillies third baseman Maikel Franco went 2-for-5 with a homer and reliever Hector Neris (2-3) picked up the win. Jeanmar Gomez pitched a scoreless ninth for his 21st save. D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb went 2-for-3, reaching base three times. He gave Arizona a 3-2 lead in the seventh with his team-best 16th homer, after Yasmany Tomas had tied the game the previous inning with a solo blast of his own. Arizona starter Zack Greinke exited with left oblique tightness prior to the third inning. The D-backs' bullpen limited the Phillies to one run over the next six innings until Ziegler's mishaps in the ninth. The D-backs lost their fourth in a row. "It's definitely frustrating, we don't like to lose games at all, period," said Ziegler, whose team fell to 13-27 at home. "We get the idea that we should be better at home than we are and it's tough to explain. Tonight, guys put us in a good position to win, especially with Zack going down early."

  • Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff helped his own cause with a single to right field that scored Freddy Galvis in the top of the second inning to give his team a temporary 1-0 lead. The D-backs answered in the bottom of the frame to tie the game at 1. The RBI was the third of the season for Eickhoff.
  • Howard's seven-pitch walk with the bases loaded proved to be the difference in the game. The veteran fell behind 1-2 against Ziegler but didn't bite on the reliever's changeups and sinkers out of the zone. "He's been battling and taking better at-bats lately," Blanco said of Howard. "It was not a hit but it counts as a big at-bat."
  • "It reminded me of the way we played for the first two months of the season. We stayed in the game and scratched and clawed to just eke out a win. That's the way we did it for two months." - said Mackanin.
  • Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera is among NL leaders in games, four-hit games, singles, infield hits and outfield assists.
  • Philadelphia's Peter Bourjos continues to be one of the hottest hitters in baseball, hitting .500 with three doubles, two two triples and six RBIs in his previous 15 games entering play Tuesday.
  • Bradley is 3-3 with a 4.50 ERA through eight starts. He was 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA in eight starts last season.

D-backs' starter Archie Bradley will establish a career-high in starts when he takes the mound for the ninth time in the series finale against the Phillies on Wednesday at Chase Field. The Arizona right-hander has been on a roll lately, sporting a 0.82 ERA over his last two outings, including six scoreless innings against the Phillies on June 19. He struck out five in the 85-pitch outing. The Phillies will counter with Zach Eflin, who has a 1.54 ERA in two starts since allowing nine runs in 2 2/3 innings in his big league debut June 14. Eflin allowed two runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings against Bradley and the D-backs. He struck out three and walked one batter in the 5-1 loss.


Potential On Display – There are games when Phillies' third baseman Maikel Franco shows off his potential. There are others when he shows his age. On Tuesday, the 23-year-old did both, picking up a pair of hits -- including a crucial home run -- and striking out twice in his team's 4-3 victory against the D-backs to clinch the series win. Franco, who is hitting .246 with 13 home runs and 41 RBIs, finished 2-for-5. "I'm just trying to get better every day and help my team," Franco said in Spanish. "I'm working on controlling my excitement at home plate and I feel like I'm getting better in that area." It was quite a night for the young infielder. He flied out to center on the first pitch he saw from D-backs starter Zack Greinke in the first inning and later hit a double on the second pitch from reliever Randall Delgado in the third. He also hit a solo home run on the fifth pitch against Delgado in the fifth inning to put the Phillies ahead, 2-1. "He's got a lot of natural ability, obviously," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's an aggressive hitter and I love aggressive hitters, but he's a little bit overly aggressive. I think he needs to be a smarter hitter. I'd rather take an aggressive hitter and throttle him back than a guy who is not aggressive and try to get him to be aggressive. That's a great situation to be in." Franco, who leads the team in home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits, struck out swinging on four pitches for the final out of the top of the seventh inning. He worked the count full before striking out with the bases loaded and the game tied at 3 on a ball way outside of the strike zone in the ninth. "He's got a chance to be a real good hitter and hit for power," Mackanin said. "He's got a lot to learn but it's only his first full year in the big leagues. He's going through a learning period." Franco, who made his big league debut in 2014, hit .280 with 14 home runs and 50 RBIs in 2015. He posted a .497 slugging-percentage and an .840 OPS last season. "I feel like I had good game because we won," Franco said. "I helped my team win and winning is the most important thing." 

Representing The Phillies – A pair of teammates at Double-A Reading will represent the Phillies at the 2016 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday, July 10 at Petco Park in San Diego. Outfielder Dylan Cozens will suit up for the U.S. roster and right-handed pitcher Ricardo Pinto will do the same for the World team. Pinto and Cozens are the Phillies' Nos. 10 and 22 rated prospects by "A friend of mine, Pat Kelly, managed [Cozens] in Puerto Rico this past winter and he sent me a text and told me to pay attention to him," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He said, 'Pete, I don't know if you know this guy Cozens, but he's going to be a stud.' I kind of paid attention to the point where I knew he was in Minor League camp and I requested him when we needed an extra outfielder for a [Spring Training] game just to see him." Mackanin estimates 6-foot-6, 235-pound Cozens hit about 10 home runs during batting practice in Port Charlotte, Fla, that day. The outfielder's power has been on display all season. Cozens hit his 20th home run of the season Monday and has driven in 60 runs for the Fightin Phils. He's also struck out 99 times. "He's really a physical specimen and I know he's got a high ceiling," Mackanin said. Pinto pitched across two levels of Class A ball in 2015 and won the organization's Minor League pitcher of the year honors. He's 3-3 with a 4.32 ERA in 85 1/3 innings for Reading this season. He's struck out 59 and walked 24. Major League Baseball, in conjunction with, Baseball America and the 30 Major League Clubs, selected the 25 players on each team. Each Major League organization is represented and players from all full-season Minor Leagues were eligible to be selected.

Flashes Of Brilliance – The Phillies have displayed flashes of dominance at times on the mound this season. They just haven't shown it enough times. On Monday, Phillies' pitchers combined to throw their Major League leading ninth shutout of the season in the 8-0 victory against the D-backs at Chase Field. They threw seven shutouts during the entire 2015 season. "For the first six or seven weeks of the season, after our 0-4 start, our pitching was just fantastic. Everybody did their job and made their pitches and for whatever reason, our pitching was really outstanding," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "When they are good, they are good. The whole name of the game is consistency. Over 162 games, the best teams end up on top because they have their ups and downs, but over the long haul, the better teams play better, hit better and pitch better." What's more, the nine shutouts are the club's most through their its 78 games since 2011 when the staff had nine shutouts in the first 67 games. That season, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt threw 21 shutouts and the Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games.

Today In Phils History – Fred Fitzsimmons had a lackluster managerial stint with the Phillies going 105-181-2 which is why he was replaced with pitcher/outfielder Ben Chapman on this day in 1945. 11 years later, on the same day that the Phillies signed minor league free agent Art Mahaffey, the Dodgers hit three straight homeruns in the bottom of the 9th to walk off against the Phillies. 2 years later former Phillie, and St. Louis left fielder, Del Ennis recorded outfield assists on two consecutive plays throwing out 2 advancing baserunners at third base. 2 years later, in 1960, the Phillies tie an MLB record by striking out 24 times in a double header. The following season, Willie Mays hits a walk off homerun in the 10th for his 3rd homerun of the game (manager Gene Mauch included several pitchers in the lineup at other positions to hid the identity of Mays’ victim). 10 years later, Tom Seaver records 13 strikeouts while shutting out the Phillies with Willie Montanez being Seaver’s 1000th career victim. In 1986, Juan Samuel hits his 1st career grand slam in the top of the 9th in an 8-7 win over the Cardinals. The following season, Steve Bedrosian (the eventual Cy Young winner for that season) recorded his 12th consecutive save, surpassing Sparky Lyle’s MLB record. In 2003, Jose Mesa secured his 17th save of the season and his 105th for the Phillies setting a new franchise record. And, finally, happy birthday to Sherry Magee who was born on this day in 1904.   

The Phillies are currently 34-45 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 49-57-2 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.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Phils Dominate D-Backs In Velasquez’s Return

GAME RECAP: Phillies Shutout Diamondbacks 8-0

When the Phillies hosted the D-backs for four games a week ago, their offense struggled. That certainly wasn't the case Monday night in the series opener of a three-game set between the two teams at Chase FIeld. Philadelphia pounded out 16 hits in an 8-0 win. Maikel Franco had three RBIs, Cesar Hernandez drove in a pair of runs, and Odubel Herrera collected four hits at the top of the order. The Phillies scored more runs than they did in that four-game series against the D-backs (five runs). "This whole road trip, starting in Minnesota, then in San Francisco, we've been swinging the bats very well, which is very nice to see," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "It was a good game for us all the way around." Vince Velasquez (6-2) picked up the win in his first start off the disabled list, as the Phillies won for the third time in five games, but for just the fourth time in their past 19. He struck out seven over five innings. D-backs starter Robbie Ray (4-7) lost for the second straight start, allowing four earned runs on nine hits in six-plus innings. Arizona was shut out for the fourth time this season and fell to 13-26 at Chase Field -- the second-worst home record in the Majors. "They just beat us tonight," D-backs outfielder Michael Bourn said. "No way around it. We'll be back tomorrow, though."

  • After five scoreless innings, the Phillies pieced together a pair of runs in the top of the sixth. Herrera and Peter Bourjos started the inning with consecutive singles, advancing to second and third on a wild pitch. Franco and Cameron Rupp drove them in with back-to-back RBI singles for a 2-0 lead. "We started off slow against Ray, he's got good stuff, and got to him a bit there," Mackanin said. "It's nice to see the offense coming around, which will hopefully help us turn the corner."
  • Velasquez provided the Phillies with five strong innings in his return from the disabled list. The right-hander made his first start since June 8 -- when he threw just two pitches then went on the DL with a strained right biceps. Velasquez scattered five hits and issued no walks, striking out seven and earning his first win since May 17. It was also the first time he lasted five innings since then, after not going deeper than four in his prior four outings. "I feel really good," Velasquez said. "I felt pretty strong, all the way through I had no hesitation, no doubts, no nothing, just pretty much trusting myself and try to get five innings in and get a 'W.'"
  • "Bourjos is probably the hottest hitter in baseball right now, he's raised his average it seems like 100 points the last three weeks," -- Mackanin, on Bourjos, who went 3-for-5 and is 14-for-27 through the first seven games of this road trip.
  • Mackanin won a challenge in the bottom of the sixth. Bourn was called safe on a steal attempt on the third strike of a Paul Goldschmidt strikeout. However, Bourn came off the bag after the throw from Rupp arrived, while second baseman Hernandez kept his tag applied. The call was overturned after a brief review lasting 1 minute, 2 seconds, and Bourn made the second out of the inning.
  • Eickhoff has faced the D-backs once, and it was his worst outing this month. He allowed three runs in 5 2/3 nnings and took the loss on June 18.
  • Greinke beat the Phillies -- and Eickhoff -- on June 18 with eight innings of one-run ball. In his career, he is 7-1 with a 2.47 ERA against Philadelphia in nine games (eight starts).
  • Only four Philadelphia players have more than eight career at-bats against Greinke -- and their numbers aren't good. Ryan Howard is 4-for-18, Cody Asche is 2-for-14, Carlos Ruiz is 0-for-14, and Freddy Galvis is 0-for-11.

Tuesday's matchup between the Phillies and D-backs features a pair of right-handed starters that are putting together impressive months of June. Philadelphia's Jerad Eickhoff and Arizona's Zack Greinke go head-to-head for the second time in 10 days in the second of the three-game set at Chase Field. Greinke (10-3, 3.61 ERA) is 4-1 with a 1.47 ERA in five starts this month. He had won seven starts in a row prior to his last outing -- a no-decision at Colorado where he allowed three runs in 5 2/3 innings. The D-backs' ace has allowed more than three runs just once in his last seven starts. Eickhoff (5-9, 3.36) is 3-2 with a 2.01 ERA in five June starts. He has won three of his last four outings -- including his last one when he allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings at Minnesota. Eickhoff has given up more than three earned runs just once in his last 11 starts.


Successful Return – It wasn't Vince Velasquez's best start of the year. Nor was it likely the best outing he'll have before season's end. But it was certainly one the 24-year-old knew was critical. After spending the last three weeks on the disabled list, Velasquez pitched five strong innings in an 8-0 win over the D-backs on Monday night at Chase Field. Before suffering a strained right biceps, Velasquez began to have some issues following a strong start to the season. After his time on the DL, he looked Monday to be carrying the electric stuff he had early on. "It was a little break to pretty much re-evaluate all my outings and go over little mechanics here and there, work on certain things, and then apply them to my bullpens," Velasquez said. "It's a first day back, so it's a good start and hopefully I can build on it." Phillies manager Pete Mackanin wanted to limit Velasquez to 90 pitches. He threw 76 in his rehab outing for Double-A Reading last Wednesday, so his arm is still being built back up. But while Velasquez was in the game, he was in control. He hit 97 mph with his fastball, scattering five hits, with seven strikeouts and no walks. "He settled in pretty nicely later on, that was good to see," Mackanin said. "His arm feels good obviously. He pitched well." It was a scoreless game when Velasquez walked off the mound following the top of the fifth, having thrown 84 pitches. But Philadelphia's offense scored a pair in the bottom half of the frame, and Velasquez notched his first win since May 17. Velasquez won four of his first five starts this season and owned a 1.44 ERA on May 1. Later on however, he went four consecutive starts without completing five innings -- including when he threw just two pitches on June 8 against the Cubs before going on the DL the next day. Velasquez may have an innings limit placed on him later this season. He has never pitched more than 124 2/3 innings in his professional career, which began in the Astros organization. But for now, he is just focused on building off his first start back from injury. "I was pretty much on top of everything, everything was working very well and I think today was a good start," Velasquez said. "My body feels great. The arm, that's just going back to trusting myself, going back to trusting the trainers. It's all about your work ethic. If you put all the work in, then there should be no doubts."

Coming Home – Tommy Joseph was 10 years old when his favorite team, the D-backs, won the World Series. He grew up rooting for the team that joined the Major Leagues as an expansion club when he was 6. He even played in a game at Chase Field during his standout career at Horizon High School in nearby Scottsdale. On Monday, Joseph returned to the desert for the first time as a Major Leaguer when his Phillies opened a three-game set against the D-backs. "Growing up, huge D-backs fan, I came to as many games as I could get to as a kid," said Joseph, a first baseman. "Obviously they had a big impact on my childhood." Joseph struck out in his first four at-bats Monday before flying out to center field in a 8-0 victory over the D-backs. Joseph was drafted by the Giants after high school. He was traded to Philadelphia in a package for Hunter Pence in 2012. Four years later, he made it to the Majors. When Joseph debuted for the Phillies on May 13 at Citizens Bank Park, he had several family members make the trip. His contingent will be larger at Chase Field on Monday night, as more family members and friends will have their first chance to see him play in the big leagues. "It'll mean a lot to have them here for that," Joseph said. "To look up and check out the ballpark from a different side is cool, it's very special and I'm very excited to get this opportunity." Joseph unseated veteran Ryan Howard as the starting first baseman earlier this month. He is batting .244/.256/.487 in 35 games since his callup, but has shown his power potential with eight home runs. Joseph isn't the only Phillies player making a return to Arizona. Reliever David Hernandez played for the D-backs from 2011-15 and starter Jeremy Hellickson pitched for them in 2015.

Today In Phils History – It would be nice to see more games like the one the Phillies played in 1887 when they blew out Indianapolis 24-0 in the largest margin of victory in team history. In a sad turn of events, team president Israel Durham died on this day after having purchased the team in March. Not one to turn down a bonus, in 1946 Phillies catcher Andy Seminick cashed in with his second homerun of the game after manager Ben Chapman announced in extra innings that he would give $25 to any player who hit a homerun. From offense to defense, in 1959 Wally Post threw out 2 baserunners from right field in the same inning tying a MLB record. In that same game, Richie Ashburn set a team record by hitting into 3 double plays. 2 years later, the Phillies played to a 15 inning tie which lasted 5 hours and 11 minutes due to NL rules stating that an inning could not be started after 12:50am. 3 years later, Chirs Short dominated on the mound throwing a 5 hit shutout while rookie Dick Allen struck out 5 times. In an odd inning 9th inning in 1970, with the game tied at 3 manager Frank Lucchesi moved pitcher Dick Selma to first base so lefty Woody Fryman could pitch to a batter with the odd part coming immediately after when the two switched back. In another odd game, the Phillies lost to the Reds in 1995 when the only run in the contest was scored on an error when Dave Hollins misplayed a pickoff attempt by Curt Schilling. Probably the most notable, and unlikely, performance of the day came in 2004 when David Bell hit for the cycle during a 16-6 win over the Expos. 2 years later, the Phillies made an unsettling move when Brett Myers was optioned to Clearwater in the wake of domestic abuse charges.

The Phillies are currently 33-45 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 49-57-2on 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!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Phillies Fight Back But Fall In The 9th

GAME RECAP: Giants Top Phillies 8-7

The San Francisco Giants took an uphill climb to grab a share of the Major League lead in victories, striving to win their 49th game with an 8-7 decision Sunday over the Philadelphia Phillies. This series finale resembled a basketball game as the score was tied at 1, 5, 6, and 7 runs apiece. Conor Gillaspie broke the final deadlock with one out in the ninth by lining a double to right field off Phillies reliever Severino Gonzalez (0-1). It scored Ramiro Pena, whose double into the right-field corner immediately preceded Gillaspie's hit. The outcome pulled the Giants (49-28, .638) even with the Texas Rangers (49-27, .645) atop the Majors' win column. The Chicago Cubs (48-26, .649) maintained the top winning percentage in either league. While such numbers are written in shifting sand, Bruce Bochy achieved a measure of posterity by recording his 800th victory as Giants manager. Only three of his predecessors -- John McGraw (2,583), Dusty Baker (840) and Bill Terry (823) -- reached this level. "As far as the number, I know how lucky I am," said Bochy, who also won 951 games in 12 seasons with San Diego. He jokingly added, "I don't think John McGraw has anything to worry about." Angel Pagan contributed heavily to the Giants' 14th victory in their last 18 games against Philadelphia by going 4-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBIs. Yet the first seven batters in the Phillies' order hit safely or drove in at least one run as they overcame a 5-1 deficit after three innings. "I'm real proud of the guys," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "They really played hard. We fell behind, 5-1, and battled back against a tough pitcher. San Francisco has been a good team. I think we're a little bit of a thorn in their side. It's disappointing to lose, but I'm real proud of the way the guys never gave up."

  • Nola is a critical piece of the Phillies' rebuild and he had been building his case to make the National League All-Star team through June 5, going 5-4 with a 2.65 ERA in 12 starts. But he allowed 10 hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Giants to end a forgettable month. Nola became the first Phillies starter to pitch fewer than four innings in four consecutive starts -- posting a 15.23 ERA in that stretch -- since Marty Bystrom in 1982. "He's a little confused right now," Mackanin said. "He's approaching his first full year in the big leagues, so he's going to have some adversity. He probably hasn't had any in quite a while, if at all. You can see his confidence is shaken a bit. But he's smart and a competitor. He'll bounce back at some point."
  • The Phillies had two outs and nobody on base in both the fourth and fifth innings, but scored two runs in each to tie the game. They also answered the Giants with game-tying runs in the seventh and eighth innings, including Odubel Herrera's solo homer to center field in the seventh.
  • "I wasn't surprised. I knew something was going to happen. I know he's coming at somebody." -- Franco, on Cueto drilling him with a pitch in the fourth inning. Nola hit three Giants batters, but battled control issues, hitting two batters with breaking balls.
  • Closer Jeanmar Gomez became the fastest Phillies pitcher to 20 saves in club history, going by team wins. No closer had picked up 20 saves in 32 wins. Ricky Bottalico held the previous record with 20 saves in 34 wins.
  • D-backs starter Robbie Ray beat the Phillies on June 17, allowing two runs over six innings while striking out seven.
  • Arizona starters entered Sunday with a 3.56 ERA in June, which was the seventh-best mark in baseball behind the Cubs (2.61), Indians (2.62), Giants (3.09), Mets (3.31), Cardinals (3.34) and Astros (3.42).

Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez rejoins the rotation for Monday's series opener against the D-backs at Chase Field. He has been on the disabled list since earlier this month because of a strained right biceps, but he declared himself ready to go after one rehab start last week. The Phillies are hopeful Velasquez can help the Phillies fare a little better against Arizona. The D-backs swept the Phillies in a four-game series from June 17-20 at Citizens Bank Park. The D-backs scored 22 runs and bashed 10 home runs in the series. Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb, Peter O'Brien and Yasmany Tomas each hit a pair of homers against the Phillies.


Struggles Continue – Is there reason to be alarmed? Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola's career had gone almost perfectly since the organization selected him with the seventh overall pick in the 2014 Draft. He posted a 3.12 ERA through his first 25 starts in the big leagues, using pinpoint command to elevate his status in the Phillies' rotation. But Nola has misfired wildly in his last four starts, including Sunday's 8-7 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park, going 0-3 with a 15.23 ERA. "He's a little confused right now," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He's approaching his first full year in the big leagues, so he's going to have some adversity. He probably hasn't had any in quite a while, if at all. You can see his confidence is shaken a bit. But he's smart and a competitor. He'll bounce back at some point." Nola allowed 10 hits and five runs in 3 1/3 innings against the Giants. In his last four starts, he has allowed 32 hits, 25 runs (22 earned) and seven walks and has struck out 14 in just 13 innings. He has hit four batters, too, including three Sunday. He hit just one batter over 131 innings in 21 starts from Aug. 12, 2015, through June 5. "His fastball command is a little off," Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz said. "I think he's trying so hard. He's pushing himself to get his command back. I know it's tough. He's a young kid. He tries so hard to pick it up. He gets himself ready and everything. That's the only thing I see, you know? We've got to move on to the next start, man." Nola is the first Phillies starter to pitch fewer than four innings in four consecutive starts since Marty Bystrom in 1982, although Bystrom made relief appearances between starts. He is the first Phillies starter to pitch four or fewer innings and allow four or more runs in four consecutive starts in the same season since Lefty Weinert in 1923. Nola has never experienced struggles like this before. "No, not really," he said. "No, this is the first time." Nola has said after the past couple of starts that he is not finishing his pitches, which is another way of saying he is not getting his hand on top of the ball before he releases it. It has him pulling pitches out of the strike zone. "In my eyes, that might be the key," Nola said. But it also might be a combination of mechanical and confidence issues. "Yeah, you can see that a little bit," Ruiz said, asked if Nola's confidence is down. But Mackanin said Nola will make his next start Saturday against the Royals at Citizens Bank Park, if anybody had any thoughts of him ironing out his problems in Triple-A Lehigh Valley. "You have to battle through adversity; at this level, especially, you see what a guy is made of," Mackanin said. "I think he has pretty good makeup."

Off To The Bullpen – Adam Morgan is out of the Phillies' rotation, but he has landed in the bullpen. The Phillies announced after Sunday's 8-7 loss to the Giants at AT&T Park that they had activated right-hander Vince Velasquez (5-2, 3.65 ERA) from the 15-day disabled list. He had been on the DL since earlier this month because of a strained right biceps. He will start Monday's series opener in Arizona. The Phillies optioned left-hander Elvis Araujo (1-1, 5.87 ERA in 27 appearances) to Triple-A Lehigh Valley to make room for Velasquez on the 25-man roster. It moves Morgan (1-6, 6.55 ERA) into a relief role for the first time in his career. "We're going to get a look at him in that role for the time being, which doesn't mean he's never going to start again for us," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "But at this point we want to give it a look to see if he can pitch out of the bullpen." The Phillies think Morgan's combination of pitches and stuff might play better in the bullpen. "It's an awesome opportunity," Morgan said. "I need to take advantage of it. I've never done it before, but I will give it a shot. I'm excited."

Staying In Center – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said nobody should read into Odubel Herrera taking fly balls in right field Saturday afternoon at AT&T Park. He said it's not a wakeup call. He said Herrera is not going anywhere. "He's my center fielder," Mackanin said before Sunday's series finale against the Giants. But Herrera has taken a step back defensively this season, appearing to lose his concentration at times. He has committed seven errors in 74 games compared to five in 136 games last season as a rookie. His Defensive Runs Saved has dropped from 10 to minus-7, according to FanGraphs. "Go out there and take some fly balls to change your perspective a little bit," Mackanin said about his motivation to have Herrera work in right field. "That's it. There's no plans to move him. If he reads something into it, good. Maybe he'll think that he needs to do better. There's nothing imminent. There's no plans for me to move him out of there."

Today In Phils History – It is quite the interesting mix of Phillies history for today beginning in 1952 when manager Eddie Sawyer was fired and replaced by Steve O’Neill the following day. In 1963, 2 Phillies had opposite experiences during a 13-4 blowout of the Pirates when Johnny Callison hit for the cycle and Tony Gonzalez had his MLB errorless streak halted at 205 games. In 1980, Steve Carlton set the franchise record for strikeouts with his 1,872nd K. Later in the decade, in 1986, the Phillies pulled off a 2-1 marathon victory in 17 innings in St. Louis. Similarly, in 2003 the Phillies and Orioles set a MLB record for longest interleague game when Jason Michael hit a walk off homerun in the 17th inning. 4 years later, Ryan Howard’s homerun set the record for the longest homerun in Citizens Bank Park history (505 feet) and also set a record as the fastest player to 100 career homeruns (325 games). Speaking of homeruns, in 2010 Jamie Moyer became the all-time homeruns surrendered leader giving up his 506th long ball surpassing Robin Roberts (he also reached 4,000 innings pitched in the game game). And, finally, happy 40th birthday to Johnny Estrada.   

The Phillies are currently 32-45 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 55-61-0 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!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Phillies Give Giants A Kick In The Bum

GAME RECAP: Phillies Shock Giants 3-2

For four innings, Madison Bumgarner had a no-hitter in sight. Though that prospect dissolved, a shutout seemed possible, or at least a Giants victory. However, all of this ultimately eluded Bumgarner as Cameron Rupp's two-run homer capped a three-run seventh inning Saturday for the Philadelphia Phillies, who prevailed, 3-2. The Giants (48-28) missed a chance to pass the Chicago Cubs as the Major Leagues' winningest team. "I crushed it, yeah," Rupp said. "I don't know if you do feel it [off the bat]. At that moment, the adrenaline, the time of the game, a big hit against a guy like that, no, I don't think I really did." San Francisco clung to a 2-0 lead when Tommy Joseph, a former Giants prospect, lashed a leadoff double in Philadelphia's seventh. He scored on Andres Blanco's single up the middle. Up came Rupp, who ripped a full-count fastball over the center-field barrier and onto the canopy covering the organic vegetable garden. It ended Bumgarner's streak of 12 consecutive starts in which he yielded two or fewer runs. Falling behind 3-0 on the count to Rupp made a difference, Bumgarner pointed out. "I don't want to put the lead run on base," he said. "I just have to go after him and he got us." Regarding the fateful fastball that Rupp hit, Bumgarner said, "I thought it was a pretty good pitch. I know he's a good fastball hitter, but I felt confident throwing it."

  • Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson needed a big night, and he delivered. He allowed five hits, two runs (one earned) and one walk and struck out three in six innings. He would have pitched longer, except he tweaked his back swinging at a pitch in the sixth inning. "I don't know why I'm trying to swing so hard," Hellickson said. "You can't even see it out of that guy's hand. But it's fine."
  • The Phillies needed a shutdown inning after scoring three runs against Bumgarner in the seventh, and they chose rookie right-hander Edubray Ramos for the job. He delivered. He needed just 10 pitches to retire the side, using a fastball that hit 96 mph and a sharp breaking ball. "That guy has got fire coming out of his hand," Rupp said.
  • "It was huge. You could tell they wanted to beat this team because they're such a good team and because the guy that was pitching is such a good pitcher. It showed me a lot because it makes you a competitor. You know we've got a bunch of competitors there." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on beating Bumgarner.
  • Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez led the National League in saves at one point. He picked up his 20th save of the season with a perfect ninth. It was his first save since June 7.
  • Maikel Franco broke up Madison Bumgarner's no-hitter in the top of the fifth Saturday with a double. He's tallied an extra-base hit in each game of the series.
  • Tommy Joseph was back in the lineup as the Phillies' starting first baseman Saturday. Joseph hadn't started since Wednesday due to a minor illness.
  • Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave closer Santiago Casilla a rest Saturday, meaning he should be ready if needed Sunday. Casilla has gone 17-for-21 in save chances, with his most recent coming Friday. 

Right-hander Aaron Nola hopes to reverse his recent fortunes in Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Giants at AT&T Park. Nola had a 2.65 ERA through his first 12 starts before posting a 15.83 ERA in his last three. Mackanin plans to have Carlos Ruiz catch Nola for the first time in his career, hoping his game-calling prowess gives Nola a bump.


Rupp’s Big Night – Cameron Rupp crushed it. But it is whom he crushed his two-run home run against in the seventh inning Saturday night in a 3-2 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park that made it more impressive. Rupp mashed a 3-2 fastball to center field against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who had not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since April 15. "Big Head, he's come up with some big hits for us," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. Rupp hit this ball so hard and so far -- it left his bat at 109 mph and traveled 433 feet, according to Statcast™ -- he could not remember if he felt the ball leave the bat. "I don't know if you do feel it," he said. "At that moment, the adrenaline, the time of the game, a big hit against a guy like that, no, I don't think I really did." Rupp entered the game tied for fifth among big league catchers in OPS (.773) and tied for fourth in slugging percentage (.468). In a season when the Phillies' front office is evaluating players for the future, Rupp is solidifying himself a spot in the team's plans. "He's really put in action what he's working on with his swing path," Mackanin said. "I'm trying to take my batting practice into the game, trying to drive the ball into the gaps," Rupp said. "For me, getting on first base, it takes three hits to score me because I can't run, so driving the ball is something I've been working on, hitting the ball in the gap, driving in runs and hitting the ball out of the ballpark when I get pitches to do it. I feel like that's the guy I need to be and that's what I'm going to continue to work on." But Rupp will not be starting Sunday's series finale. Carlos Ruiz will be behind the plate, catching Aaron Nola for the first time in his career. Nola has a 15.83 ERA in his last three starts and Mackanin hopes Ruiz's game-calling skills can snap Nola out of his funk. Mackanin said Rupp is in a learning process behind the plate. "Catching is first for me," Rupp said. "Anything I do at the plate is a plus. And I want to be back there every day, but I respect [Mackanin's] decision. And Chooch could help Nola. This is a guy that's never struggled in the big leagues. Chooch has been back there, World Series, no-hitters, perfect game, it's a guy that could get him back on track. And I'm all for it. We need him to be on his 'A' game every fifth day, and if that's what it takes, absolutely, you know?" But if Rupp continues to hit, he will remain the No. 1 guy. He proved again Saturday night why he has become just that.

Future Closer? – The moment the Phillies traded Ken Giles in December, more than a few Phillies fans wondered about the future of the ninth inning. Who the heck would close? The Phillies' potential future closer pitched a scoreless seventh inning Saturday night in a 3-2 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park. Phillies rookie right-hander Edubray Ramos, making the second big league appearance of his career, needed just 10 pitches to retire the side, coming up with a big shutdown inning after the Phillies scored three runs against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner in the top of the seventh. "I'm pretty excited about what I saw, cautiously optimistic," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That guy has got fire coming out of his hand," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. Ramos got Conor Gillaspie to pop out for the first out before striking out Gregor Blanco looking and Denard Span swinging on a foul tip. His fastball touched 96 mph. He showed a sharp breaking ball, too. "For a guy to throw that hard and throw his breaking stuff and throwing everything for strikes and attack the hitter, that's pretty special," Mackanin said. "Hopefully that'll continue." The Phillies are looking for effective late-inning relievers. While it is too early to be certain about Ramos, if he can pitch like he pitched Saturday, he could work himself into regular work late in the game. They are looking for people. Phillies right-hander David Hernandez has struggled recently, allowing runs in each of his previous four appearances. In fact, he got bumped out of his usual seventh-inning role Friday in favor of Severino Gonzalez and Elvis Araujo. But Hernandez pitched the eighth because setup man Hector Neris had pitched the past three days. Hernandez allowed a leadoff single to Joe Panik, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hernandez then walked Buster Posey with one out to put runners on first and second. Brandon Crawford followed and ripped a line drive to left field. Phillies left fielder Tyler Goeddel made a nice catch, which surprised Panik, who was on his way home. Goeddel threw to second to double up Panik to end the inning. "Goeddel bailed us out," Mackanin said. "That could have been disastrous, obviously."

Set To Return – Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez is officially back in the rotation. Manager Pete Mackanin announced before Saturday night's game against the Giants at AT&T Park that Velasquez will pitch Monday night against the D-backs at Chase Field. Velasquez has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 9 because of a strained right biceps. He made a rehab start Wednesday with Double-A Reading. Velasquez will take left-hander Adam Morgan's spot in the rotation. Morgan will be available to pitch out of the bullpen Sunday, and his fate will be determined after that. Mackanin said Morgan could remain in the Phillies' bullpen. "We're not sure we're going to do that," Mackanin said. "It's an option we're mulling."

Earning Playing Time – Cameron Rupp is quietly establishing himself as a piece of the Phillies' future. He entered Saturday night's game against the Giants at AT&T Park hitting .269 with 14 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 21 RBIs and a .773 OPS in 46 games. He was tied for fifth among big league catchers in OPS and is tied for fourth in slugging percentage (.468). And that was before he hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the Phillies' 3-2 victory over the Giants. He figures to be behind the plate in some capacity in 2017, but Carlos Ruiz, who is in the final year of his contract, is not going away silently. In fact, his game-calling prowess is pushing him back into the lineup. He will catch struggling right-hander Aaron Nola for the first time in his career in Sunday's series finale. Ruiz has caught right-hander Jerad Eickhoff five times this season, including four times this month. Eickhoff earned the win in three of those starts, three of the Phillies' only five wins in June. Mackanin indicated Ruiz could catch Eickhoff more in the future. It isn't exactly Sam Bradford vs. Carson Wentz, but could there be a catching controversy brewing behind home plate? "Possibly," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That's the hard part about this job. You have to give up something to get something, and right now we need offense. At least right now Cam offers more offense. However, is it more important to guide the young pitcher and bring him along with some veteran experience? Winning games is important, too, for the health of the players, the coaches and the manager, too." Asked if the Phillies' coaches can help a catcher call a game from the dugout, Mackanin said, "[The catchers)] have meetings, they have charts. Sometimes it surprises you. You go over it in a meeting and there's input back and forth, and you get in a game and it's, 'What are you doing? Pitch according to the book we have here.' Sometimes guys don't do that." So Ruiz is calling a better game? "Let's put it this way, with the years of experience he's had, I'd like to think, yeah, I would say that," Mackanin said. "Rupp's in a learning process. I'm not going to say he calls a better game than Chooch because Chooch has had a lot of success with a lot of different types of pitchers."

Full Circle – Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph was ruled out of Thursday's game against the Minnesota Twins because of a cold. But, as Joseph noted before Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants, it was going to take much more than a minor illness to keep him from playing this weekend against the club that drafted him. "I was going to do everything I could to be healthy when I got here," Joseph said. "This series means a lot to me. I'm always going to have something special for the Giants because they're the first organization to give me the opportunity to play professional baseball." The Giants took Joseph in the second round of the 2009 Draft as a catcher, only to send him to Philadelphia in 2012 as part of a trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco. Joseph returned Friday, this time as a first baseman coming off the bench in the Phillies' 5-4 loss in the series opener. For Joseph, the night served as his career coming full circle, especially considering the difficult path he took to get back to AT&T Park, a journey that included two concussions, a wrist surgery and a change in positions. The last time he'd been at the ballpark was just after the Giants drafted him. "It's fun to be back," Joseph said. "Just getting the opportunity to play against guys I played with in the Minor Leagues. It's fun to get the opportunity." Joseph was back in the starting lineup Saturday for the Phillies. He entered Saturday batting .095 (4-for-42) in his last 11 games.

Today In Phils History – The Phillies saw a master at work on this day in 1915 when Grover Cleveland Alexander threw a 1-hitter, beating the Dodgers 4-0. In what could be considered the opposite of a masterpiece, in 1991 starting pitcher Pat Combs walked 5 of the 6 batters he faced, all of whom scored, in a 14-1 loss to the Cardinals. And in what is simply an odd picture, Carlos Ruiz stole home on the back end of a double-steal against the Reds in 2007. Lastly, happy 50th birthday to Jeff Conine and happy 30th birthday to Lou Marson, 2 players with short lived Phillies careers. 

The Phillies are currently 32-44 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 55-61-0 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!