Saturday, June 4, 2016

Phillies Finally Snap Streak

GAME RECAP: Phillies Beat Brewers 6-3

The Phillies, next to last in the National League in home runs, used blasts from catcher Cameron Rupp and infielder Andres Blanco to break a seven-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Brewers on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. Milwaukee starter Jimmy Nelson, who came into the game leading the team with eight quality starts, gave up both homers while allowing six earned runs in four innings. That also ended a string of seven games in which the Phillies scored three or fewer runs. "Any time we score six runs, it's a big deal around here," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. The Brew Crew had previously won eight straight in Philadelphia but fell Friday despite a two-RBI performance from shortstop Jonathan Villar that included his second home run in as many nights. Phillies starter Vince Velasquez, who had a 10.38 ERA in his previous two starts, overpowered the Brewers for four shutout innings, striking out six. But he loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth, allowed a run on a sacrifice fly, then walked the bases full again before coming out of the game without qualifying for the win. That went to reliever Andrew Bailey, who pitched out of trouble in the fifth and then had a 1-2-3 sixth. He's now 3-0. Jeanmar Gomez got his Major League-leading 18th save. "We got the tying run up to the plate [in the eighth after] we were down 6-0, which you like to see," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said, "but we just couldn't get that next hit."

  • Trying to jump-start the Phillies' offense, Mackanin played small ball in the third, and it resulted in two extra runs. With one out and Odubel Herrera on first, Herrera broke for second on a 1-1 pitch to Blanco. Second baseman Scooter Gennett broke to cover the base and was barely able to recover to throw Blanco out when he slapped a grounder behind him. But that prevented an inning-ending double play, and consecutive singles by Maikel Franco, Tommy Joseph and Jimmy Paredes resulted in two additional runs.
  • After Velasquez pitched four dominant innings, he ran into trouble in the fifth. With one run in, one out and the bases loaded, Bailey came out of the bullpen to limit the damage, allowing just one more run to score and preserving a 6-2 lead.
  • "It's nice to come in here smiling for a change." -- Mackanin, after his team ended its seven-game losing streak.
  • The Phillies challenged the ruling on the field that Rupp was out stretching a single into a double in the bottom of the fourth inning. The call was overturned after a one minute, 57 second review. Braun made a strong throw to Gennett. Rupp made an awkward slide, but he was able to get his hand back on the base after he briefly lost contact. That turned out to be a big play because, with two outs, Herrera walked and Blanco followed with a three-run homer.
  • All the Phillies' scoring came on three runs in the third and three more in the fourth, matching their single-inning high for the season. That's right. They haven't scored four or more runs in an inning yet this year.
  • Velasquez allowed two earned runs. That matched the number of runs he had allowed all season at Citizens Bank Park in 24 1/3 innings over four starts.
  • It had been a good, long while since the Brewers lost a game at Citizens Bank Park -- June 2, 2013, to be precise, when manager Ron Roenicke employed 16 players in a 7-5 loss. Only three are still with the team: Braun, Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado.
  • Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff, who left Thursday night's game when a hard comebacker hit by Keon Broxton struck his left ankle, said Friday he expects to make his next scheduled start on Tuesday against the Cubs at Citizens Bank Park. "I did all my running and everything I was supposed to do," he said. "It feels pretty good."
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last five starts, takes the mound as the Phillies continue their series against the Brewers. 


Still Searching – The Phillies had a 6-0 lead over the Brewers through four innings Friday night at Citizens Bank Park. Starter Vince Velasquez had struck out six. The Phillies had been hoping the right-hander would come out of his recent doldrums, and it looked like it might be happening. In the dugout, thought, manager Pete Mackanin was worried. Once again, Velasquez was throwing a lot of pitches. It turned out his concerns were warranted. Velasquez faced five batters in the fifth, retired only one and was taken out before he was eligible to earn the win. "Through four innings he might have been dominant, but he didn't really show command of his stuff," Mackanin explained. "Everything was iffy. He threw quite a few pitches. Certainly if you're going to continue to do that into the fifth inning, obviously you don't have good stuff. Which means I can't count on you to make the pitch you need to make. You're just as likely to make a mistake as a good pitch." He ended up throwing 94 pitches in 4 1/3 innings, but the Phillies won, 6-3, to end a seven-game losing streak. When the manager came to the mound to bring Andrew Bailey into the game, Velasquez allowed his frustration to show, thrusting the ball at him instead of handing it over. "I didn't like the way he gave me the ball, and we talked afterwards and we're cool. It's not an issue," Mackanin said. Said Velasquez, the key to the deal that sent closer Ken Giles to the Astros this offseason: "Who wants to be taken out of the game? But I have to hand the ball over, because I can't do anything about it." In his second Phillies start, Velasquez struck out 16 Padres in a three-hit shutout. He hasn't gone more than six innings since, and his last three turns haven't completed five innings. "When he pitched that game against San Diego, I think he kind of thought he had it figured out. And why wouldn't you feel that way?" Mackanin said. "And then he got hit around a little bit, and all of a sudden, the wheels start spinning and you start thinking, 'Well, maybe I shouldn't do that. I'll try throwing more breaking stuff.' You get caught in the middle like that." "I really don't know. I can't give you a legit answer, because I don't know what's going on right now," said Velasquez. "I've got to figure something out. It's just one of those stages where you're dealing with adversity. You've got to fight through it. "I'm sure it's both mental and physical. I'll talk to [pitching coach Bob McClure] and see what we can do about this slump, because it's getting the best of me right now. I don't know what's going on. It's hitting me pretty hard." Catcher Cameron Rupp expressed confidence that Velasquez will figure it out. "He's throwing a lot of pitches that are fouled off, so that forces his pitch count up," he said. "He's going to work on a couple things, and there's no doubt in my mind he can get back to where he was at the beginning of the year."

Practicing Patience – The Phillies surprised almost everybody by getting off to a 24-17 start, but then they lost 11 of their next 13. They've scored three or fewer runs in nearly two of every three games they've played. Manager Pete Mackanin noted before Friday night's game against the Brewers at Citizens Bank Park that the team is "starving" for offense. Both Mackanin and general manager Matt Klentak agree on two things. Both believe better days are ahead. And both say that, no matter what ups and downs lie ahead, they won't rush prospects to the big leagues or otherwise change their approach to rebuilding. "In my role, I need to be cognizant that over the course of a 162-game schedule, teams are going to have high points and they're going to have low points," Klentak said. "We're not going to win 81 in a row and then lose 81 in a row. It doesn't really work that way. And that's true of every team in the league, not just the Phillies. Obviously, we're going through a tougher stretch now after we went through a pretty good stretch for a couple of months. And I don't doubt for a second that we're going to turn it around here shortly. "So, no, I wouldn't say there's been a radical change in our vision for either this season or the long term." On a day the Phillies honored their organizational players for the month for May -- Double-A Reading outfielder Dylan Cozens (hitter), Triple-A Lehigh Valley right-hander Edubray Ramos (pitcher) and Class A Advanced Clearwater outfielder Carlos Tocci (defender) -- Klentak said he won't accelerate the progress of any farmhands. "No, the players will come up when we believe they're ready to come up, contribute and stay here," he said. Mackanin is on board with that approach. "I was in development for so many years that I know the fear is you take a guy, you move him too soon and if he fails, maybe you shouldn't have moved him because now he loses confidence," the manager said. At Lehigh Valley, outfielder Nick Williams is coming on strong after a slow start and speedy Roman Quinn is showing promise. Touted shortstop J.P. Crawford is also with the IronPigs and Cozens could join them at Triple-A before long. "There are a lot of promising guys down below," Mackanin said. "But we don't want to just rush them just because we're starving for offense. We don't want to just throw these guys into the fire. We just have to hold down the fort."

Weighing Options – The Phillies may wait until the last possible moment to decide exactly who they'll select with the first overall pick in the Draft on Thursday. And while talent will be the primary factor taken into account, general manager Matt Klentak said Friday night that there will be other considerations as well. "We've got a lot of evaluators that have been doing this a really long time. I'm enjoying listening to these guys talk and dissent different tools, different strengths and weaknesses of some of these players. We're trying to get it right. We're listening to everybody and gathering all of the information we can to put ourselves in the best position to get it right." The Phillies plan to take the player they conclude has the best chance to have a great Major League career. But more goes into that than physical ability. For example, Klentak conceded that the player they judge to be the best in the nation will find himself in a unique situation. "There's a degree of expectation that comes along with being the first overall pick -- and for good reason," he said. "So we need to make sure, as we do with any Draft selection, but how well is a player going to handle the expectations, the pressures, the money, the attention. All those things. That's definitely a piece of the puzzle we're considering." Character playes a role, too. "That's something that we factor into any player acquisition decision, whether it's a waiver claim or a trade or a Draft pick," Klentak said. "The makeup of a person, that really matters. One of the critical jobs of an area scout is really getting to know -- as best as we can -- the player, the family." And signability is an issue. To that end, the Phillies have conversations with the advisors of the players on their short list, a group reported to include Barnegat (N.J.) High School left-hander Jason Groome, Mercer University outfielder Kyle Lewis, La Costa Canyon (Calif.) High School outfielder Mickey Moniak, University of Florida left-hander A.J. Puk, Louisville outfielder Corey Ray, Chaminade (Calif.) College Prep outfielder Blake Rutherford and Tennessee third baseman Nick Senzel. "I think most importantly, and this isn't specific to the first round, we want to take players that want to play professional baseball. That's the most important thing," said Klentak. "Some guys want to go to college. And if that's the case, we need to know that. "Some guys have certain figures that they want to buy them out of college, and we need to know that. I think it's important to gather information about their scouting reports, their statistical information, their medical information, and there's financial information. We need all of that to make the right decisions." Klentak stressed that the goal is to have a successful Draft from top to bottom. He said he doesn't necessarily have a preference if the first overall pick is a high school or college player, and that he expects a mix throughout the process.

Today In Phils History – 53 years before his son accomplished the same feat in a Phillies uniform, Pirate Gus Bell hit for the cycle against the Phillies in 1951. 2 years later, the Phillies rotation took a hit when Curt Simmons cut off part of his left big toe while mowing his lawn resulting in him missing a month of the season (but he still managed to collect 16 wins). The following decade, in 1964, Sandy Koufax threw his third career no hitter shutting down the Phillies with 12 strikeouts and facing the minimum 27 batters. Art Mahaffey didn’t appreciate Koufax’s birthday present as he had to take the mound the following day against the Giants. Recent history is much kinder to the Phillies as it was on this day 3 years ago when John Mayberry Jr. became the first Phillie to hit 2 extra inning homeruns in the same game when he tied it with a solo shot in the 10th and hit a walk off grand slam in the 11th against Miami. And, finally, happy 23rd birthday Aaron Nola!

The Phillies are currently 27-28 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 34-62-0 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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