Thursday, June 9, 2016

Phillies Fall Again To The Cubs

GAME RECAP: Cubs Crush Phillies 8-1

The Cubs were too good to leave Citizens Bank without a series victory. Right-hander John Lackey ensured they got one Wednesday afternoon in an 8-1 win over the Phillies. Lackey allowed just three hits and struck out eight in seven scoreless innings while retiring the final 16 batters he faced. Kris Bryant and Ben Zobrist homered as part of a three-run sixth that opened up the game. The Cubs went 5-1 against the rebuilding Phillies this season to improve to 41-17 for the best record in baseball. "The whole game was set up because John Lackey pitched as well as he did," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He knows what he's doing out there. He does different things with hitters to really set them up. … There's no way to sit on him. He's very unpredictable and he's very smart." The Phillies found themselves in trouble early, as right-hander Vince Velasquez left the game after just two pitches because of soreness in his right biceps. "It started out so awkwardly," Maddon said. "We experienced all four seasons here in Philadelphia, so you had that to contend with. Their pitcher goes out, so everything you planned before the game changes. "All kinds of weird things happened in the game, so to end up 8-1, I did not see that coming at all."

  • The Phillies had concerns about Velasquez's durability before they acquired him from Houston in December, but they hope this injury is not serious. But clearly something was wrong. His fastball registered just 86 and 87 mph on the radar gun, which was a considerable drop from his 95 mph average for the season. "I'm not concerned at all," Velasquez said.
  • Oberholtzer warmed up quickly in the top of the first inning and pitched pretty well in relief, allowing just one unearned run in four innings of work. Bailey allowed homers to Bryant and Zobrist in the sixth to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead.
  • "Well, the only good news is we don't have to see the Cubs for the rest of the year."
    -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin.

The Phillies do not play Thursday, but they resume action Friday night in a three-game series against the Nationals at Nationals Park at 7:05 ET. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (4-3, 3.80 ERA) pitches the series opener. Right-hander Aaron Nola (5-4, 2.65 ERA) and left-hander Adam Morgan (1-5, 6.70 ERA) pitch Saturday and Sunday, respectively.


Velasquez Exits Early… Really Early – The Phillies always loved Vince Velasquez's talent and potential, but they also had concerns about his durability. Those concerns popped up Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, as Velasquez left the game after throwing just two pitches in an 8-1 loss to the Cubs. Velasquez's fastball registered only 86 and 87 mph on the radar gun, which were bigger red flags than the red World Series championship banners that fly in center field, considering his fastball averaged 95 mph this season. "'Something's wrong,'" Velasquez said he thought to himself after he peeked at the scoreboard. The Phillies said Velasquez has a strained right biceps. He will be reevaluated Thursday, when he could have a MRI exam. "I'm not concerned at all," Velasquez said. The Phillies hope the injury is nothing, although it is a smart bet Velasquez will miss some time. Left-hander Brett Oberholtzer is a candidate to replace Velasquez in the Phillies' rotation. So are Triple-A pitchers Zach Eflin and David Buchanan, among others. Eflin is not on the 40-man roster, but has pitched well. Buchanan is on the 40-man roster. Velasquez posted a 2.42 ERA through his first eight starts this season, dominating opponents in the process. He allowed just 34 hits, 13 earned runs, 15 walks, three home runs and struck out 59 in 48 1/3 innings. But in his three starts before Wednesday, he posted an 8.31 ERA, allowing 22 hits, 12 earned runs, seven walks and five home runs while striking out 14 in 13 innings. Velasquez said he felt nothing in his arm before Wednesday, which could have accounted for his recent struggles. He said he first felt a twinge in his right arm in the bullpen before the game and notified pitching coach Bob McClure. Velasquez then asked to wait for a moment before he threw a few more pitches in the bullpen. He told McClure that he felt better, but McClure still informed manager Pete Mackanin and head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan about the situation. Velasquez said he wanted to test the arm on the mound in pregame warmups, which he did. But he obviously looked different. Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp and shortstop Freddy Galvis noticed and spoke with him on the mound. "'There's no need to push it,'" Rupp said he told him. "'You don't need to hurt yourself and make anything worse.'" Velasquez threw his first pitch of the game to Cubs center fielder Dexter Fowler. Rupp caught it, glanced at the scoreboard and saw the fastball hit just 86 mph. Rupp immediately looked into the Phillies' dugout. "We've got to get him out of there," Rupp said. Velasquez threw one more pitch, which Fowler hit for an out to right field. The Phillies pulled the plug there. "We looked at the velocity of the two pitches and said, 'No,'" McClure said. The Phillies want to be smart about Velasquez, who was the key piece in the Ken Giles trade with Houston in December. The Phillies originally agreed to send Giles to the Astros for a four-player package that included right-handers Velasquez and Thomas Eshelman, Oberholtzer and outfielder Derek Fisher. But the Phillies had concerns about Velasquez's physical. He had Tommy John surgery in 2010, but sources also said the club had concerns about his shoulder. In the end, the trade got delayed a few days and was reworked. The Phillies sent Giles and Minor League infielder Jonathan Arauz to the Astros for five pitchers: Velasquez, Eshelman, Oberholtzer, Mark Appel and Harold Arauz. Velasquez said he does not believe the biceps strain could lead to something like another elbow surgery. "It's just more in the biceps area," he said. "It's just something that's probably more minor. This is not something to be too worried about." Cubs pitcher John Lackey, who had Tommy John surgery in 2011, issued words of caution, however. "A lot of times that's code for elbow," Lackey said about Velasquez's diagnosis as a biceps injury. Time will tell about its severity. "I think I'll be fine," Velasquez said. "I don't think I'm going to miss that much time, but I don't know what to expect. I can't give you a legitimate answer because I don't know what's going on. From what I know, it's a strain and we'll see how it goes tomorrow."

Howard productive Off The Field – Education is king in the Ryan and Krystle Howard household, and they expressed those feelings Wednesday morning at Citizens Bank Park. The couple hosted more than 3,000 elementary school children from across the Delaware Valley for the first "Little Rhino Read-Along" on behalf of the Ryan Howard Big Piece Foundation. The couple talked to the students about leadership, being a good teammate and, of course, the importance of reading and the knowledge gained from it. "I thought we had a great turnout," Krystle Howard said. "The kids were engaged. They were excited. To be able to bring education to the baseball field, I think that's a really cool concept." The Howards and Cameron Rupp acted out scenes from one of the "Little Rhino" books. Howard, Tommy Joseph and Adam Morgan answered questions from students in the stands. Each student received a Little Rhino book, along with a T-shirt. And the Howards, Joseph and Morgan serenaded the crowd with "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" to end the event. Proceeds benefit the Phillies MLB Urban Youth Academy through the Ryan Howard Big Piece Foundation.

Voting Is Still Open – It looks like Phillies players will need a significant voting boost to make the National League All-Star team. They continued to be shut out among the league leaders in votes at every position in the second 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot released on Wednesday. Center fielder Odubel Herrera, starter Aaron Nola and closer Jeanmar Gomez are the three most likely Phillies to make the NL All-Star team. Herrera entered Wednesday's game against the Cubs hitting .319 with five home runs and 18 RBIs. His average was good for eighth in the NL, and he ranked third in on-base percentage (.425), fifth in walks (38) and was tied for sixth in stolen bases (eight). Nola entered Wednesday ranked 10th in the NL with a 2.65 ERA, seventh in WHIP (0.99) and third in strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.67). Gomez was tied for the Major League lead with 19 saves. Fans can cast their votes for starters at and all 30 club sites -- on their computers, tablets and smartphones -- exclusively online using the 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Ballot until Thursday, June 30, at 11:59 p.m. ET. Vote up to five times in any 24-hour period for a maximum of 35 times. Fans may also receive the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Or text VOTA for a ballot in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages. No purchase required. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info. Following the announcement of the 2016 All-Stars, be sure to return to and cast your 2016 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote for the final player on each league's All-Star roster. On Tuesday, July 12, watch the 2016 All-Star Game presented by MasterCard live on FOX, and during the game visit to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2016 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 87th All-Star Game, in San Diego, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game., MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit

Phestival Day – The Phillies are hosting their biggest event of the year on Thursday at Citizens Bank Park. Their annual Phillies Phestival benefits The ALS Association. The Phillies have raised $16 million for patient services and research in the Greater Philadelphia area. For more information and a preview of silent auction items, please Event highlights include: Private meet and greet with ALS patients and players; Player autograph sessions and the chance to throw in the bullpen; Photo booth session with the Phillie Phanatic (sold out); Silent auction featuring dozens of items from around the world of sports. Fans unable to attend are invited to contribute to the cause by making a donation at

Today In Phils History – Sometimes it’s all about the offense. When the Pirates came to town in 1914, Honus Wagner was 1 hit shy of 3,000 for his career which he soon secured in the 9th inning with a double (after a false start in the 4th when the play was ruled an error). 1949 saw the Phillies and Pirates matched up again but this time without the fan fair as the Phillies came out on top 4-3 in 18 innings (both team recorded 16 hits and 3 errors in the even matchup). And, finally, while he wasn’t known for his speed, John Kruk could definitely hit and on this day in 1991 he collected 2 triples against the Reds at Riverfront Stadium.

The Phillies are currently 29-31 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 49-49-1 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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