Wednesday, June 1, 2016

And The Slide Continues For The Phillies

GAME RECAP: Nats Down Phils 5-1

Daniel Murphy completed his scorching hot month of May with another multi-hit game, including a solo home run, and Joe Ross delivered a strong outing to help lead the Nationals to a 5-1 victory over the Phillies on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park. Murphy improved his average to .397 on the season and tied a franchise record for most hits in a single month with 47, including seven homers. He had only homered seven times in a single month once, this past October while he helped the Mets complete their run to the World Series. "Murph's ready to hit June, July August and September," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "And we've seen him in October. Doesn't really matter, just as long as we can keep him healthy and happy." The Nationals had four homers on the day -- Jayson Werth's solo homer in the first inning, Murphy's homer in the sixth, Danny Espinosa's two-run homer in the ninth inning followed by a pinch-hit inside the park home run from Stephen Drew -- to back Ross, who tossed seven innings of one-run ball. The Nationals will go for a series sweep Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has dropped nine of its last 11 games despite starter Aaron Nola's solid outing. Nola struck out six over six innings, allowing two runs. "That was the one bright spot," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of Nola's outing. Bryce Harper sat out with a right knee contusion after being hit by a Jeremy Hellickson pitch in Monday's game.

  • Despite being only 22 years old and in his first full Major League season, Nola has flourished in his role as the quasi-ace of a staff that never really had one. He took the loss on Tuesday, but to no fault of his own. Nola notched his ninth quality start in 11 tries. He stranded three Nationals on base, escaping the rare jam in which he found himself. The only damage off the Nats' bats against Nola came on two solo home runs. "He competes pitch by pitch is what he does and he doesn't let anything bother him," Mackanin said. "He's like a golfer who sees the water in front of him and the sandtraps to the side and just puts that out of focus." 
  • It remains a mystery where the Phillies' offense will come from each night. On Tuesday, the lone run was driven in by a Cesar Hernandez triple. Hernandez was batting eighth only because Pete Mackanin was hoping "to change our luck" offensively. In the past 33 games played at NL parks, Mackanin had hit the pitcher eighth in all but one. But Hernandez, in the eight hole, was the catalyst for the bottom third of the Phils' order. Three of the Phillies' four hits came from their bottom three -- two singles from David Lough on top of Hernandez's triple. "We're just getting out-homered every night," Mackanin said. "Four hits. We're not hitting home runs. I feel like it's a broken record -- we're not hitting."
Adam Morgan (1-3, 6.67 ERA) gets the ball for the Phillies in the series finale against Washington. He has lost his last three starts and his only two quality starts this season have come against the last-place Braves.


Nola Continues To Mature – After Clint Robinson reached third with no outs, Aaron Nola appeared to be in trouble in the second inning of the Phillies' 5-1 loss to the Nationals on Tuesday. But Nola bore down and retired three of the next four Nats to strand Robinson on third and keep the Phillies within one. After getting Joe Ross swinging to end the frame, the typically stoic right-hander couldn't contain a fist pump as he left the mound. Nola left for good after the sixth. The two runs he allowed came on two solo home runs. He scattered four more Nats' baserunners and struck out six en route to his ninth quality start in 11 tries. "That was the bright spot of the night," manager Pete Mackanin said. Look beyond Nola, and you'll find just one run scored, four hits and a bullpen that let the score escalate from 2-1 to 5-1. Of Nola's 96 pitches, he'll categorize only two as mistakes: a first-pitch fastball to Jayson Werth in the first inning and another heater to Daniel Murphy in the sixth. Both landed in the seats. After each home run, though, Nola ended the damage there. After Werth's shot, Nola responded by getting Murphy, who leads the Majors with a .397 batting average, looking. After Murphy's homer, he struck out Robinson swinging on a sinker to close the sixth. "It shows a lot of moxie," Mackanin said. "This guy, nothing bothers him." Nola has begun to embody a cold-blooded mentality. And he's the guy the Phillies turn to when they need to stop a losing streak. Since he came up last July, Nola has eight times pitched after the Phillies had lost two or more in a row -- including his last two times out. In those starts, Nola's pitched 49 innings and posted a 2.94 ERA, while striking out 2.8 batters for every one he walks. Yet, he hasn't been able to snap every skid. Of those eight starts, Philadelphia has won five. In the three losses, the Phillies offense has averaged just 2.67 runs of support for Nola. "It's baseball, it happens," the level-headed Nola said. "Sometimes we pitch bad and get a lot of run support. Sometimes we pitch good and don't get too much run support." Nola denied treating these games unlike any other start. Mackanin, though, believes Nola has the special quality it takes for a starter to become a rotation's stopper. Whether the 22-year-old does have it, or if it's just masked by his maturity, Mackanin believes Nola's calm and cool demeanor has become infectious. "It's great to see," Mackanin said. "I think it rubs off on some of the guys."

Today In Phils History – Ed Delahanty made the first mark on franchise history when he hit two inside the park homeruns in the same game in 1893. 30 year later the Phillies weren’t so fortunate as the Giants scored in every inning of a 22-8 drubbing. The Phillies played their first night game, and lost to the Pirates, in 1939. 30 years later, Dick Allen homered in his 5th consecutive game setting a team record. A decade later, manager Danny Ozark, long before Tony LaRussa, had Steve Carlton bat 8th in the lineup without any success. 4 years later, Mike Schmidt was once again on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Finally, it has already been 11 years since Chase Utley was sent in to pinch hit in the bottom of the 8th in a tie game against the Giants and hit a grand slam.

The Phillies are currently 26-26 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 45-55-0 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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