Sunday, June 26, 2016

Phillies Give Giants A Kick In The Bum

GAME RECAP: Phillies Shock Giants 3-2

For four innings, Madison Bumgarner had a no-hitter in sight. Though that prospect dissolved, a shutout seemed possible, or at least a Giants victory. However, all of this ultimately eluded Bumgarner as Cameron Rupp's two-run homer capped a three-run seventh inning Saturday for the Philadelphia Phillies, who prevailed, 3-2. The Giants (48-28) missed a chance to pass the Chicago Cubs as the Major Leagues' winningest team. "I crushed it, yeah," Rupp said. "I don't know if you do feel it [off the bat]. At that moment, the adrenaline, the time of the game, a big hit against a guy like that, no, I don't think I really did." San Francisco clung to a 2-0 lead when Tommy Joseph, a former Giants prospect, lashed a leadoff double in Philadelphia's seventh. He scored on Andres Blanco's single up the middle. Up came Rupp, who ripped a full-count fastball over the center-field barrier and onto the canopy covering the organic vegetable garden. It ended Bumgarner's streak of 12 consecutive starts in which he yielded two or fewer runs. Falling behind 3-0 on the count to Rupp made a difference, Bumgarner pointed out. "I don't want to put the lead run on base," he said. "I just have to go after him and he got us." Regarding the fateful fastball that Rupp hit, Bumgarner said, "I thought it was a pretty good pitch. I know he's a good fastball hitter, but I felt confident throwing it."

  • Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson needed a big night, and he delivered. He allowed five hits, two runs (one earned) and one walk and struck out three in six innings. He would have pitched longer, except he tweaked his back swinging at a pitch in the sixth inning. "I don't know why I'm trying to swing so hard," Hellickson said. "You can't even see it out of that guy's hand. But it's fine."
  • The Phillies needed a shutdown inning after scoring three runs against Bumgarner in the seventh, and they chose rookie right-hander Edubray Ramos for the job. He delivered. He needed just 10 pitches to retire the side, using a fastball that hit 96 mph and a sharp breaking ball. "That guy has got fire coming out of his hand," Rupp said.
  • "It was huge. You could tell they wanted to beat this team because they're such a good team and because the guy that was pitching is such a good pitcher. It showed me a lot because it makes you a competitor. You know we've got a bunch of competitors there." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on beating Bumgarner.
  • Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez led the National League in saves at one point. He picked up his 20th save of the season with a perfect ninth. It was his first save since June 7.
  • Maikel Franco broke up Madison Bumgarner's no-hitter in the top of the fifth Saturday with a double. He's tallied an extra-base hit in each game of the series.
  • Tommy Joseph was back in the lineup as the Phillies' starting first baseman Saturday. Joseph hadn't started since Wednesday due to a minor illness.
  • Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave closer Santiago Casilla a rest Saturday, meaning he should be ready if needed Sunday. Casilla has gone 17-for-21 in save chances, with his most recent coming Friday. 

Right-hander Aaron Nola hopes to reverse his recent fortunes in Sunday afternoon's series finale against the Giants at AT&T Park. Nola had a 2.65 ERA through his first 12 starts before posting a 15.83 ERA in his last three. Mackanin plans to have Carlos Ruiz catch Nola for the first time in his career, hoping his game-calling prowess gives Nola a bump.


Rupp’s Big Night – Cameron Rupp crushed it. But it is whom he crushed his two-run home run against in the seventh inning Saturday night in a 3-2 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park that made it more impressive. Rupp mashed a 3-2 fastball to center field against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner, who had not allowed more than three earned runs in a start since April 15. "Big Head, he's come up with some big hits for us," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. Rupp hit this ball so hard and so far -- it left his bat at 109 mph and traveled 433 feet, according to Statcast™ -- he could not remember if he felt the ball leave the bat. "I don't know if you do feel it," he said. "At that moment, the adrenaline, the time of the game, a big hit against a guy like that, no, I don't think I really did." Rupp entered the game tied for fifth among big league catchers in OPS (.773) and tied for fourth in slugging percentage (.468). In a season when the Phillies' front office is evaluating players for the future, Rupp is solidifying himself a spot in the team's plans. "He's really put in action what he's working on with his swing path," Mackanin said. "I'm trying to take my batting practice into the game, trying to drive the ball into the gaps," Rupp said. "For me, getting on first base, it takes three hits to score me because I can't run, so driving the ball is something I've been working on, hitting the ball in the gap, driving in runs and hitting the ball out of the ballpark when I get pitches to do it. I feel like that's the guy I need to be and that's what I'm going to continue to work on." But Rupp will not be starting Sunday's series finale. Carlos Ruiz will be behind the plate, catching Aaron Nola for the first time in his career. Nola has a 15.83 ERA in his last three starts and Mackanin hopes Ruiz's game-calling skills can snap Nola out of his funk. Mackanin said Rupp is in a learning process behind the plate. "Catching is first for me," Rupp said. "Anything I do at the plate is a plus. And I want to be back there every day, but I respect [Mackanin's] decision. And Chooch could help Nola. This is a guy that's never struggled in the big leagues. Chooch has been back there, World Series, no-hitters, perfect game, it's a guy that could get him back on track. And I'm all for it. We need him to be on his 'A' game every fifth day, and if that's what it takes, absolutely, you know?" But if Rupp continues to hit, he will remain the No. 1 guy. He proved again Saturday night why he has become just that.

Future Closer? – The moment the Phillies traded Ken Giles in December, more than a few Phillies fans wondered about the future of the ninth inning. Who the heck would close? The Phillies' potential future closer pitched a scoreless seventh inning Saturday night in a 3-2 victory over the Giants at AT&T Park. Phillies rookie right-hander Edubray Ramos, making the second big league appearance of his career, needed just 10 pitches to retire the side, coming up with a big shutdown inning after the Phillies scored three runs against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner in the top of the seventh. "I'm pretty excited about what I saw, cautiously optimistic," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That guy has got fire coming out of his hand," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. Ramos got Conor Gillaspie to pop out for the first out before striking out Gregor Blanco looking and Denard Span swinging on a foul tip. His fastball touched 96 mph. He showed a sharp breaking ball, too. "For a guy to throw that hard and throw his breaking stuff and throwing everything for strikes and attack the hitter, that's pretty special," Mackanin said. "Hopefully that'll continue." The Phillies are looking for effective late-inning relievers. While it is too early to be certain about Ramos, if he can pitch like he pitched Saturday, he could work himself into regular work late in the game. They are looking for people. Phillies right-hander David Hernandez has struggled recently, allowing runs in each of his previous four appearances. In fact, he got bumped out of his usual seventh-inning role Friday in favor of Severino Gonzalez and Elvis Araujo. But Hernandez pitched the eighth because setup man Hector Neris had pitched the past three days. Hernandez allowed a leadoff single to Joe Panik, who advanced to second on a wild pitch. Hernandez then walked Buster Posey with one out to put runners on first and second. Brandon Crawford followed and ripped a line drive to left field. Phillies left fielder Tyler Goeddel made a nice catch, which surprised Panik, who was on his way home. Goeddel threw to second to double up Panik to end the inning. "Goeddel bailed us out," Mackanin said. "That could have been disastrous, obviously."

Set To Return – Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez is officially back in the rotation. Manager Pete Mackanin announced before Saturday night's game against the Giants at AT&T Park that Velasquez will pitch Monday night against the D-backs at Chase Field. Velasquez has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 9 because of a strained right biceps. He made a rehab start Wednesday with Double-A Reading. Velasquez will take left-hander Adam Morgan's spot in the rotation. Morgan will be available to pitch out of the bullpen Sunday, and his fate will be determined after that. Mackanin said Morgan could remain in the Phillies' bullpen. "We're not sure we're going to do that," Mackanin said. "It's an option we're mulling."

Earning Playing Time – Cameron Rupp is quietly establishing himself as a piece of the Phillies' future. He entered Saturday night's game against the Giants at AT&T Park hitting .269 with 14 doubles, one triple, six home runs, 21 RBIs and a .773 OPS in 46 games. He was tied for fifth among big league catchers in OPS and is tied for fourth in slugging percentage (.468). And that was before he hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the Phillies' 3-2 victory over the Giants. He figures to be behind the plate in some capacity in 2017, but Carlos Ruiz, who is in the final year of his contract, is not going away silently. In fact, his game-calling prowess is pushing him back into the lineup. He will catch struggling right-hander Aaron Nola for the first time in his career in Sunday's series finale. Ruiz has caught right-hander Jerad Eickhoff five times this season, including four times this month. Eickhoff earned the win in three of those starts, three of the Phillies' only five wins in June. Mackanin indicated Ruiz could catch Eickhoff more in the future. It isn't exactly Sam Bradford vs. Carson Wentz, but could there be a catching controversy brewing behind home plate? "Possibly," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That's the hard part about this job. You have to give up something to get something, and right now we need offense. At least right now Cam offers more offense. However, is it more important to guide the young pitcher and bring him along with some veteran experience? Winning games is important, too, for the health of the players, the coaches and the manager, too." Asked if the Phillies' coaches can help a catcher call a game from the dugout, Mackanin said, "[The catchers)] have meetings, they have charts. Sometimes it surprises you. You go over it in a meeting and there's input back and forth, and you get in a game and it's, 'What are you doing? Pitch according to the book we have here.' Sometimes guys don't do that." So Ruiz is calling a better game? "Let's put it this way, with the years of experience he's had, I'd like to think, yeah, I would say that," Mackanin said. "Rupp's in a learning process. I'm not going to say he calls a better game than Chooch because Chooch has had a lot of success with a lot of different types of pitchers."

Full Circle – Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph was ruled out of Thursday's game against the Minnesota Twins because of a cold. But, as Joseph noted before Saturday's game against the San Francisco Giants, it was going to take much more than a minor illness to keep him from playing this weekend against the club that drafted him. "I was going to do everything I could to be healthy when I got here," Joseph said. "This series means a lot to me. I'm always going to have something special for the Giants because they're the first organization to give me the opportunity to play professional baseball." The Giants took Joseph in the second round of the 2009 Draft as a catcher, only to send him to Philadelphia in 2012 as part of a trade that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco. Joseph returned Friday, this time as a first baseman coming off the bench in the Phillies' 5-4 loss in the series opener. For Joseph, the night served as his career coming full circle, especially considering the difficult path he took to get back to AT&T Park, a journey that included two concussions, a wrist surgery and a change in positions. The last time he'd been at the ballpark was just after the Giants drafted him. "It's fun to be back," Joseph said. "Just getting the opportunity to play against guys I played with in the Minor Leagues. It's fun to get the opportunity." Joseph was back in the starting lineup Saturday for the Phillies. He entered Saturday batting .095 (4-for-42) in his last 11 games.

Today In Phils History – The Phillies saw a master at work on this day in 1915 when Grover Cleveland Alexander threw a 1-hitter, beating the Dodgers 4-0. In what could be considered the opposite of a masterpiece, in 1991 starting pitcher Pat Combs walked 5 of the 6 batters he faced, all of whom scored, in a 14-1 loss to the Cardinals. And in what is simply an odd picture, Carlos Ruiz stole home on the back end of a double-steal against the Reds in 2007. Lastly, happy 50th birthday to Jeff Conine and happy 30th birthday to Lou Marson, 2 players with short lived Phillies careers. 

The Phillies are currently 32-44 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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