Friday, June 24, 2016

Phillies Finally Snap Skid

GAME RECAP: Phillies Top Twins 7-3

A towering three-run homer in the eighth inning gave Freddy Galvis a career-high five RBIs, as the shortstop powered the Phillies to a 7-3 win over the Twins behind a solid Jerad Eickhoff in Thursday's series finale at Target Field. The win snapped a season-long nine-game losing streak for the Phillies, who have struggled over the past month. After starting the season 24-17, they are 7-26 since May 18. "I think we're something in between," Galvis said. "The thing we have to be working on is mental stuff. Mental stuff because we have to learn to turn the page really quick. If we lose today, tomorrow's another day." Ryan Howard also homered as part of a two-hit afternoon, notching his first multi-hit game since April 29, while Cesar Hernandez tied career-highs with four hits and three runs scored for the Phillies. Maikel Franco, who walked three times, was the only Phillies starter not to record a hit in a 15-hit barrage against right-hander Ricky Nolasco and the Twins. Although the Twins scored in the first inning for the third straight game on an RBI double by Brian Dozier, Nolasco allowed four runs on 10 hits over 6 2/3 innings, and Kevin Jepsen yielded the late homer to Galvis to put the game out of reach. Max Kepler was the only Twins player to record two hits in the loss. "It was a struggle right from the get-go," Nolasco said. "I've been pitching long enough to know that no matter how you feel, good or bad, you still have to go out there and get outs. The thing I was thinking was that I've just got to try to go as deep as possible in the game. I know I didn't have much going, but I tried to keep us close as much as possible."

  • Phillies starters allowed 13 runs in eight innings in the first two games of the series, but Eickhoff allowed five hits, two runs (one earned), one walk and struck out four in six innings. The Phillies have won just three times since June 5, and Eickhoff has earned the win each time. "I think every pitcher that goes out there wants to be the guy who stops the bleeding and gives us a chance to win," Eickhoff said. "It was a great feeling to go out there and just go as deep as I could."
  • Everybody knows about the Phillies' offensive struggles, but they scored a combined 22 runs in the series. Howard and Galvis homered Thursday, both having entered the game in prolonged slumps. "Three days ago we had a meeting and started talking and saying, 'All right, guys, there's too much pressure,'" Galvis said. "Just try to let it go and try to play the game the right way. Everything's going right so far."
  • "I don't like it when everybody comes to the mound. I don't like it. They got no business being there unless I call them in to tell them what we're going to do with a throw or something. They didn't need to hear what I was saying to Eick." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on why he shooed away his infielders during a mound visit in the fifth inning.
  • Howard's trot around the bases in the second inning took 26.6 seconds, which was the 87th-slowest home run trot in baseball this season. That might seem slow, considering there has been nearly 2,500 homers this season, but Howard's average trot is 26.1 seconds. His fastest this season took 25 seconds, while his slowest took 27.5 seconds. Any chance Howard could walk the parrot the next time he homers, like Edwin Encarnacion? "I think that's copywritten," Howard said. "Maybe walk the dog?"
  • Ryan Howard had his first multi-hit game on Thursday against the Twins since April 29. Howard is no longer the Phillies' everyday first baseman because of his season-long struggles.
  • The Giants do not play a team with a winning record until the Red Sox after the All-Star break. Their next 19 games are against the Phillies, A's, D-backs, Rockies and Padres.

This weekend's series between the Giants and Phillies is a tale of teams headed in opposite directions since May. The Giants are the hottest team in baseball since posting a 17-18 record through May 10. They are 30-9 since, which is the best record in the Majors. The Phillies posted a 24-17 mark through May 18, which was the third-best record in the National League. But they are just 7-26 since, which is the worst record in baseball in that stretch. Giants veteran Jake Peavy (3-6, 5.47 ERA) faces Phillies rookie Zach Eflin (0-2, 10.80 ERA) in Friday night's series opener at AT&T Park. Peavy is 2-1 with a 1.76 ERA in his last five starts, while Eflin, who is the No. 13 prospect in the Phillies' organization according to, makes his third big league start.


Talk Pays Off – Before Tuesday's series opener against the Twins at Target Field, Phillies' hitters gathered with hitting coach Steve Henderson to discuss the upcoming pitching matchups. The Phillies have these meetings before every series, but this one went differently. Phillies veterans Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz spoke to their teammates, imploring them to relax, trying to get them to take pressure off themselves as the losses piled up and the runs weren't coming. Coincidence or not, Twins' pitching staff or not, the Phillies hit the ball better this week, including during Thursday's 7-3 victory. "Open mic, something like that," Howard said of the meeting. The victory snapped a nine-game losing streak, and the 22 runs scored against the Twins were a positive for the struggling Phillies. "We're young guys," shortstop Freddy Galvis said. "Everybody wants to stay in the big leagues. Nobody wants to go back. Sometimes you put too much pressure [on yourself]. Instead of that, you just have to have fun and play baseball and just let it happen." Galvis went 2-for-3 with a triple, home run and career-high five RBIs. He also executed a safety squeeze in the second inning. Cesar Hernandez went 4-for-4 with three runs scored. He played only because Tommy Joseph got scratched because of an illness, forcing Andres Blanco from second to first. Howard went 2-for-5 with a solo home run, and Blanco and Cody Asche also had two hits. "Obviously Chooch and I have been through it all, so guys want to go out and do well," Howard said. "Sometimes you try to do a little too much. You just try to offer some different words of encouragement to guys and try to get them to settle down." "Yeah, it helped a lot, especially when you get some advice from guys like Chooch, guys like Howie," Galvis said. "They say, 'Hey, don't worry. It's going to happen. We've been through hard times, too, and sooner or later it's going to turn around.' We try to get the confidence back, try to get your stroke back, and next time you see it, you hit the ball good." Howard played the entire series as the designated hitter, going 3-for-14 at the plate with the home run and two RBIs. He is adjusting to a reserve role, trying to remain as upbeat as he can, trying to help the younger players get through their tough times. "That's always been my demeanor, just try to be upbeat, keeping positive and all that stuff," he said. "I mean I understand the game. I understand what takes place in the game. I've been around the game for a long time. You have ups and downs. Right now when I get out there and play, try to do what I can and try to help these guys learn and become better ballplayers."

Again, Don’t Mess With The Hoff – Lately, only Jerad Eickhoff can stop the Phillies' losing. The right-hander allowed one earned run over six innings on Thursday afternoon in a 7-3 win over the Twins at Target Field. The Phillies snapped a nine-game losing streak to avoid their longest skid since they lost 11 consecutive in September 1999. "I think every pitcher that goes out there wants to be the guy who stops the bleeding and gives us a chance to win," Eickhoff said. "It was a great feeling to go out there and just go as deep as I could." The Phillies have won just three times since June 5. Eickhoff has won all three of those games, becoming the team's most consistent starter. Phillies starters have a 5.35 ERA since they were 24-17 on May 18. They have a 5.87 ERA since the beginning of the June. But Eickhoff is 5-9 with a 3.36 ERA in 15 starts this season, including a 3-2 mark with a 2.01 ERA in five starts this month. Remove Eickhoff from the equation and Phillies starters have a 7.36 ERA in June. "He appears to be that guy," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said of Eickhoff becoming the Phillies' stopper. Eickhoff allowed a run in the first inning when Brian Dozier doubled down the left-field line to score Eduardo Escobar, handing the Twins a 1-0 lead. He then allowed an unearned run in the fifth, which he set up. He had been throwing to first throughout the game, but his 21st pickoff throw got away from Phillies first baseman Andres Blanco to allow Juan Centeno to reach second. Escobar singled two batters later to cut the Phillies' lead to 3-2. Mackanin met Eickhoff on the mound to tell him to stop throwing to first. "I want the pitchers to be aware of the running game, but common sense dictates …" Mackanin said. "I thought I could get them," Eickhoff said. "It just kept on going." The Phillies happily took Eickhoff's running game concerns on Thursday with another solid effort. The team badly needed it. "If everybody feels good about themselves, then we'll win, and I'll feel good about myself," Mackanin said.

Bullpen Triage – The Phillies are shorthanded in the bullpen following a couple of rough nights at Target Field. But Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said no roster moves will be made until Friday in San Francisco, if they make any at all. Right-hander Andrew Bailey tweaked his left hamstring Wednesday night, and if he is not available to pitch for a few days, they will need to make a roster move. That could mean optioning a starting pitcher, possibly left-hander Adam Morgan, if the Phillies deem right-hander Vince Velasquez ready to rejoin the rotation as early as Monday. "We've got a pretty good idea about what we're doing to do," Mackanin said. "But we're not going to announce anything yet, because it's still up in the air. It's not definite. "Obviously we can't go three days with six bullpen guys." Through the Phillies' first two games against the Twins, five relievers have combined to throw eight innings. Right-hander David Hernandez pitched an inning in both games. Velasquez has been on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right biceps. He pitched five innings in a rehab start Wednesday with Double-A Reading and declared himself ready to rejoin the Phillies, but the club still could have him make a second rehab start. "We're in a holding pattern right now," Mackanin said. "If Bailey feels great tomorrow, that might ward off one move." Morgan is 1-6 with a 6.55 ERA after allowing 11 hits, five runs (four earned), one walk and striking out three in five innings in Wednesday's 6-5 loss to the Twins.

Today In Phils History – In 1926, Phillies pitcher Jack Knight provided the offense hitting the only 2 homeruns of his MLB career. In a shortened doubleheader in 1944, Boston’s Jim Toubin doesn’t allow a hit against the Phillies through 5 innings when the game is called due to darkness (the first game of the day lasted 15 innings). After failing to show up for a doubleheader in New York in 1969 (the third time in 2 years he had failed to report on time to a game), and having been spotted at an off limits, to ballplayers, bar owned by Joe Namath the night before, Phillies manager Bob Skinner suspends Dick Allen indefinitely. Folliwng a 4-8 start to the season with a 6.18 ERA, it was an unceremonious end to Steve Carlton’s tenue with the Phillies in 1986 when the team granted him his unconditional release after Lefty refused to retire. From one lefty to another, it was on this day in 1994 when Fernandomania came to town when the Phillies signed Fernando Valenzuela. 4 years ago today, the Phillies finally took advantage of a new rule and carried 26 players on the active roster, BJ Rosenberg being the 26th, for the double header caused by a previous game postponement.   

The Phillies are currently 31-43 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 57-59-0 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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