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!

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