Thursday, June 2, 2016

Phillies Swept For Second Series In A Row

GAME RECAP: Nationals Sweep Phillies 7-2

There was nothing on the field Wednesday night hiding the fact that the Nationals' 7-2 win over the Phillies was a matchup of one team's veteran ace and the other's youthful No. 5. Max Scherzer was dominant from the outset as he led the Nats to a three-game sweep of the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. He pitched eight innings and struck out 11. The only runs he gave up came on a Tyler Goeddel two-run homer to left in the seventh. It was the 39th time in Scherzer's career he's struck out at least 10. The Nats considered removing him from the game after the seventh but Scherzer convinced them to leave him in the game for one more inning. "I know my pitch count, I know how I feel and I knew I was strong," Scherzer said. "And not only could I start the inning, but I knew I could finish the inning, too." Adam Morgan was effective early, needing only 65 pitches to get through five innings. But Washington torched him for four runs in the sixth. Home runs from Wilson Ramos and Danny Espinosa did the damage. The Nats tacked on one more after Daniel Murphy tripled and was driven home on a Ryan Zimmerman sac fly. Murphy couldn't be cooled off this series, reaching and scoring twice on Wednesday and finishing the series 6-for-12 with four RBIs and four extra-base hits -- just two fewer than the Phillies had as a team. "Adam Morgan, he seems like he's on the verge of getting through it, but then he makes mistakes," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Too many mistakes out over the plate, up in the zone." Philadelphia has now lost six straight and 10 of its last 12. With Wednesday's loss, the Phillies fell under .500 for the first time since they were 9-10 on April 24. They entered the series in third place in the NL East, 3 1/2 games back of Washington. The Nationals' sweep not only gives them breathing room over the Mets, but also knocked the Phillies into fourth place behind the Marlins. "We know where we need to go," Mackanin said. "We know we're not there. We'd like to be where the Cubs are with their young players."

  • The Phillies have put on a defensive spectacle this series, despite getting swept. Each night they turned in better plays than the last. Goeddel's throw to double off Bryce Harper on Monday. On Tuesday, Cesar Hernandez and Freddy Galvis combined to turn "one of the best double plays you're ever going to see," according to Mackanin. But the Phils put a bow on their defensive performance in the series finale. Galvis first made an impressive sliding, over-the-shoulder grab in shallow center. David Lough followed with a diving catch to rob Scherzer in the fourth, and topped that off with a tumble in right field foul territory on a Jayson Werth pop in the seventh.
  • Morgan needed only 65 pitches to get through the first five innings, allowing two of six baserunners to score. But Washington blew the game wide open in the sixth, its first two batters reaching before Ramos homered them in. Espinosa followed two batters later with a solo shot to make it 6-0. Morgan left having allowed six runs on nine hits, though he did strike out six. "He's got stuff. There's a lot of guys that have stuff," Mackanin said. "But in order to be successful, you can't make mistakes. You have to keep the ball down in the zone and hit the corners." "It's keeping the ball down," Morgan said. "It's a simple fix, but it's easier said than done." 
  • "He's a kind of guy where you have to go in there because if you don't, he's gonna hit it. It was not intentional. I was trying to get in there to open up the outside of the plate." -- Morgan, on Murphy's reaction to being hit with the first pitch he saw Wednesday.
  • With one down in the third, Murphy poked a Morgan fastball into shallow center. Galvis and Hernandez both gave chase, and Galvis made a spectacular, sliding, over-the-shoulder catch. He quickly got up and fired the ball to first, where he came within a replay review of a highlight-reel double play. But when the Phillies challenged the safe call at first, it was upheld upon further review. The review took 2 minutes, 15 seconds. Mackanin is 10-for-19 on challenges this season.
The Phillies host Milwaukee for four games at Citizens Bank Park beginning Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Jerad Eickhoff (2-7, 4.07 ERA) starts for the Phillies, opposing the Brewers' Chase Anderson (2-6, 5.00 ERA).


Make Yourself Comfortable – Everybody expected this season to be Ryan Howard's last in Philadelphia. But Wednesday could have been the unofficial end of his run as the team's regular first baseman, a role he has held since his supplanted Jim Thome in July 2005. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin told Howard in a pregame meeting Wednesday at Citizens Bank Park that he will be benched the next three to four games to give Tommy Joseph an opportunity to play. Mackanin said Joseph could win the everyday job in that time. Mackanin called his meeting with Howard a "great conversation." Howard handled the news well. In fact, he approached Joseph afterward and told him to "kick some butt." "I told him, I get it," Howard said about his meeting with Mackanin. "I know where I am right now. You know, I understand. By no means am I trying to relinquish my job or anything, but you know, I've played the game long enough to know and understand." Joseph, in his first game with Howard officially benched, didn't reach base in the 7-2 loss to the Nationals. He went 0-for-4 with a strikeout. "You can only do so much," Joseph said. "You can only get one hit in one at bat. So I'm just going to continue to be prepared everyday. Obviously it's a good feeling when you know you're going to play." Joseph was appreciative of Howard's words of advice prior to the game. "It meant a lot. He didn't have to do that," Joseph said. "He came up to me, told me I was going to play the next three or four days. He filled me in on what Scherzer likes to do out there, then told me to go kick some butt. We've talked a little bit since then, too. He's been great. He's done so much for this team and the city. That's something he didn't have to do. For a guy like him to come up to me and tell me that, that means a lot." Howard, who is in the final season of a five-year, $125 million contract, is hitting .154 with eight home runs, 19 RBIs and a .558 OPS in 158 plate appearances. He hit .101 in May, which is the seventh lowest batting average for any hitter with 75 or more plate appearances in any month since 1981. Meanwhile, Joseph is hitting .270 with three home runs, five RBIs and an .816 OPS in 40 plate appearances. Howard had started 37 of the team's 52 games, but had seen his playing time reduced recently. He said he believes he can improve offensively and recapture his role as the team's primary first baseman. But he certainly has no plans to quit, even if his struggles continue and he finishes the season as a bench player. "No, I'm not going to quit," Howard said. "That's not in the vocabulary. That's the easiest thing to do -- quit and give up when things are hard. You really see what you're made of when those things are not going the way you want them to go." Mackanin said he received no input from the front office about the matter. "We'll just give him three or four days off and start all over," Mackanin said. "See where it leads. We'll see what Tommy does in three or four days. That very well could extend that period of time to a week. It depends on how well he looks. … It's not really so much about Ryan. It's about seeing the younger guy who tore it up in Triple-A and came up here to make a good first impression. We want to get a look at him. As we know, this season is about the future. We're in the middle of a rebuilding process." Howard's contract expires at the end of the season, although he has a $25 million club option with a $10 million buyout. Officially, nobody has said the Phillies will take the buyout, but it is fait accompli. "I mean, the organization has been wanting to see younger players for the last three years," Howard said. "So, I mean, yeah, I get it." But Howard insists he can work out the mechanical flaws in his swing and avoid finishing his season as a bench player. "I'm going to do my best to keep that from happening," he said. "I'm not even going to try to think like that. Like I said, just work on me. Just try to get things together, support my teammates out there and then when I get the opportunity to go play, try to go do what I can." The possibility exists the Phillies could release the 36-year-old Howard at some point and just move on. But for now, that does not seem imminent. For now, the Phillies seem content to let Joseph play while the greatest first baseman in franchise history sits on the bench, trying to recapture some of the form that made him the 2006 National League Most Valuable Player and allowed him to anchor an offense that won one World Series, two National League pennants and five NL East championships from 2007-11. "I don't think anybody wants to answer questions like this," Howard said. "Anybody who has played the game, you play this game long enough, you're going to have ups and downs. Being in the situation where I am, that's where I am. That's the reality of it right now. … Hey, you can either sit there and just sulk about it or you can do something about it. The only thing I can do is do something about it."

Still Learning – Adam Morgan was good in Wednesday night's 7-2 Phillies loss to the Nationals. Until he wasn't. It's like manager Pete Mackanin's favorite turn of phrase, a broken record. He's used it to describe the Phils' lackluster offense and outstanding bullpen throughout the season. Both have been about as reliable as Morgan looking strong before losing his touch. On Wednesday, Morgan needed only 65 pitches to make it through five innings. He allowed two runs and scattered a few hits, but he was in line for his third quality start had he made it through the sixth unscathed. He did not. The Nationals homered twice and tagged him for four runs in the inning. Morgan left after six, surrendering six runs on nine hits. "He looks like he's on the verge," Mackanin said. "But he just can't finish the hitters off." Morgan has a 1.71 ERA in the first three innings of his starts this season. But that number balloons to 15.81 in innings three through six. Entering Wednesday's game, opponents had been 9-for-23 in their third plate appearance in a game against Morgan. The Nationals went 4-for-9 and scored four of their runs their third time through the order. "He's got stuff. There's a lot of guys that have stuff," Mackanin said. "But in order to be successful, you can't make mistakes. You have to keep the ball down in the zone and hit the corners. "That's how you become a good Major League pitcher. He's got the stuff to do that, the instinct to do it. But this is a result-oriented business, especially here." The results have not been pretty for the 26-year-old lefty. The six runs on Wednesday raised his season ERA to 7.07. The only quality starts he's recorded have come against a Braves offense that is scoring the fewest runs in baseball. In starts against any other team, Morgan has a 9.93 ERA. Morgan has pinpointed what's going wrong. He's leaving a couple pitches up every start, and they're coming back to bite him. "It's keeping the ball down," Morgan said. "It's a simple fix, but it's easier said than done."

Another Roster Shuffle – The Phillies acquired utility man Jimmy Paredes on Wednesday from the Blue Jays in exchange for cash considerations. The 27-year-old was designated for assignment by the Blue Jays on Monday. To make room for Paredes on the 40-man roster, the Phillies transferred Charlie Morton from the 15-day to the 60-day disabled list. Paredes made his Phillies debut during Wednesday night's 7-2 loss to the Nationals, striking out as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning. To clear room on the 25-man, the club designated Emmanuel Burriss for assignment. Paredes could see the field more than Burriss because of the Phillies' need for offense. "He's a better hitter than some of the guys we have," said Phillies manager Pete Mackanin. "I haven't seen him recently. He's pretty aggressive. I think he hit .275 one year for Houston. He was [Baltimore's] DH for quite a while there." Paredes hit .286 in 168 at-bats during 2011, his rookie season, with Houston. The most at-bats he has had in a season came in 2015, when he acted as the Orioles' designated hitter for much of the year. He hit .275 with 10 home runs in 363 at-bats. Toronto claimed Paredes off waivers from the Orioles earlier this season. The Phillies reportedly also put a claim in, but because Toronto is an American League team, it had priority. In 15 at-bats with Toronto, he hit .267 with a .886 on-base plus slugging percentage. Over his career, Paredes has a .667 on-base plus slugging percentage. Although Paredes can play all over the field and hit from both sides of the plate, the most likely source of playing time will come in the outfield against right-handers. In his career, Paredes has an OPS 200 points higher against righties (.705) than lefties (.511). Another potential offensive upgrade in the outfield is due back soon, too. Cody Asche's rehab is progressing and Mackanin expects him back soon, but doesn't have an exact timeline. When he returns, Mackanin said he'll likely exclusively roam left field. Burriss acted primarily as a bench bat and utility backup before being DFA'd. He collected only four hits in 33 at-bats (.121). "One of the hardest guys I've ever had to send out was Burriss," Mackanin said. "He's an outstanding teammate. Just a great guy. Always upbeat. Billingual. Pulled for everybody. Knew his role and accepted it. Just hated to see him go. But had to do it."

All Star Game Voting Update – The first National League All-Star voting update was released Wednesday and no Phillies made the cut despite a surprising 26-26 start. But come July 12, Petco Park shouldn't be void of Phillies. Prior to the season, many figured Maikel Franco to be the lone Phillies representative for the National League squad, but others have made themselves worthy of consideration. Odubel Herrera ranks near the top of many hitting leaderboards. His .425 on-base percentage ranks fifth in baseball and his 34 walks rank fourth in the National League. Herrera also leads the team in wins above replacement, with 2.2. Since being moved to the top of the order on April 20, Herrera has been a sparkplug for the offense. In that time, he's hit .341 and scored a team-high 23 runs. However, for Herrera to crack the top 15 in National League outfielders, he'll have to overtake at least the Giants' Angel Pagan, who ranks 15th with 155,507 votes. Pagan, by comparison, has a lower average (.275), on-base percentage (.338) and slugging percentage (.383). 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, with a maximum of up to five messages and 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

Today In Phils History – In many ways this is the day of the homer for the Phillies. It starts in 1928 when Cy Williams and Johnny Schulte both hit pinch-hit home runs setting a team record and tying the MLB record. In 1945, Vince DiMaggio hit a pinch his grand slam but, like in the 1928 contest, the Phillies could hold on. 4 years later, the Phillies turned things up a notch in the 8th inning against the Reds hitting 5 bombs in the inning including 2 by catcher Andy Seminick (Del Ennis, Schoolboy Rowe, and Willie Jones accounted for the other 3) which tied the MLB record for a single inning (and the 26 total bases recorded in the inning set the new MLB standard). 40 years later, the Phillies were on the receiving end of what would be a pivotal trade when they sent Chris James to the Padres for Randy Ready and John Kruk. The homeruns continued in 2002 when pitcher Robert Person contributed 2 longballs and earned the win against the Expos. And, finally, on the same night that Antonio Bastardo made his major league debut, Rual Ibanez celebrated his 37th birthday in style by going deep twice (the first being the 200th of his career) in a win against the Padres.

The Phillies are currently 26-27 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 51-49-0 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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