Saturday, June 11, 2016

Phils Lose Game And Lose Velasquez

GAME RECAP: Nats Beat Phils 9-6

Stephen Strasburg settled down after a rocky start Friday, retiring the final 14 batters he faced to lead the Nationals to a 9-6 victory over the Phillies. The Washington righty has now won 13 straight decisions, extending a franchise record. Strasburg (10-0) stumbled early, allowing two runs in the second inning and a two-run home run to Tommy Joseph in the third. But after that, he was dominant, reaching double-digit strikeouts for the seventh time this season. "It's just about trying to go out there and [doing] your job," Strasburg said. "They've been swinging the bat great for me, and I'm going to continue to try and keep it close for them." The Nationals' bats provided plenty of offense, with Wilson Ramos, Stephen Drew and Danny Espinosa all going yard, and Daniel Murphy adding two doubles and three RBIs. Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson lasted six innings, ceding seven runs on nine hits, including the three homers. "I made way too many mistakes, and they didn't miss a lot of them," Hellickson said. "The biggest thing was just falling behind. Command wasn't good, especially early in the counts." The Philadelphia bullpen was unable to quiet Washington's lineup, as callup Luis Garcia gave up two more runs in the seventh. Philadelphia got those runs back in the eighth on another two-run homer by Joseph, but Jonathan Papelbon closed the door for Washington in the ninth.

  • Joseph has now homered four times in the past four games he's started. The right-handed Joseph homered off both right-handed Strasburg and left-handed Felipe Rivero on Friday, supporting the case that he should play every day, regardless of matchup. His batting average is up to .323, and after the game manager Pete Mackanin announced Joseph, not Ryan Howard, would be the Phillies' everyday first baseman moving forward. "You can't say enough about Tommy Joseph," Mackanin said. "He looks like the real deal, and it's great to have him here." 
  • Friday marked a bump in the road for Hellickson, who had a 2.53 ERA in his previous five starts. The righty allowed three homers and two doubles over seven innings, consistently leaving pitches up in the zone for hitters to drive. Hellickson said he was particularly frustrated with the loss given the 4-0 lead his team staked him early. "The guys spot me a 4-0 lead in the third inning, I've got to make that stand," he said. "This loss is definitely on me."
  • First baseman Ryan Howard is batting only .150 on the season, with a .559 OPS, prompting a gradual decline in his playing time as Tommy Joseph continues to hit well. Howard has only 10 at-bats in June and was not in Philadelphia's lineup Friday against the Nationals. Mackanin said before the game he would talk to Howard, "just to let him know what his status is."
Aaron Nola takes the hill for the Phillies in the second game of their three-game series against the Nationals. Nola is coming off six scoreless innings against the Brewers on Sunday and has now thrown a quality start in nine straight outings. He holds a 2.65 ERA on the season, with 85 strikeouts in 78 innings.


Howard Supplanted – After more than a decade in the center of the Phillies' lineup, Ryan Howard is officially out as the club's primary first baseman. Manager Pete Mackanin spoke to Howard before Friday's game and told the veteran that the hot-hitting Tommy Joseph would get the bulk of the playing time at first base moving forward. Joseph hit two home runs in the Phillies' 9-6 loss to the Nationals on Friday, and he now has seven homers in 65 at-bats since being called up May 13. "I can't sit Tommy Joseph," Mackanin said. "You can't say enough about Tommy Joseph. He looks like the real deal, and it's great to have him here." When Joseph came up last month, the Phillies planned to use him against lefties and Howard against righties. But as Howard struggled (he's hitting .150 on the season) and Joseph stayed hot, Mackanin was forced to give the 24-year-old rookie more opportunities. So on Friday, the manager summoned Howard to his office and told him Joseph would be playing every day. "He was low-key about it," Mackanin said. "I'm sure he's not happy about it, but he didn't have a whole lot to say. You can't argue about Tommy Joseph." Joseph celebrated his promotion by hitting two home runs Friday, one off right-handed starter Stephen Strasburg and the other off left-handed reliever Felipe Rivero. Joseph has now homered four times in his last four starts. Joseph raved about Howard's mentorship, saying the three-time All-Star has been supportive of him throughout the last month, even as they competed for playing time. "He's the best," Joseph said. "He's been great, very easy to talk to. He's been there for me every step of the way. Whenever I need anything, he's there. He's a good guy to learn from, too. Obviously the guy has been in the game for over a decade now, so he's seen a lot of different things, and he's a guy I can go talk to about certain situations in the game." In many ways, Howard's demotion was a long time coming. His numbers have dropped gradually since his mid-2000s peak, when he won 2006 National League MVP Award, with his OPS falling to .704 in 2014 and '15 and .559 in 2016. With Joseph hitting .323/.333/.677, it was time for a change. Mackanin said he would look to get Howard pinch-hit opportunities and give the veteran spot starts from time to time. The manager said benching someone who has accomplished as much as Howard is not ideal but that he felt he had no choice. "I flat-out don't like it," Mackanin said. "I don't like to have to deal with it because of what he's done for the organization over the years. Once again, this is another year where we're looking to the future, and Tommy Joseph looks like he's going to be in the future."

Velasquez To DL – It was no surprise Friday when the Phillies announced that they had placed Vince Velasquez on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right biceps. Philadelphia called up right-handed reliever Luis Garcia to fill Velasquez's roster spot for the weekend and announced that prospect Zach Eflin will pitch in place of Velasquez on Tuesday. Velasquez left Wednesday afternoon's game against the Cubs after just two pitches -- a pair of fastballs that registered just 86 and 87 mph on the radar gun. Velasquez's fastball had averaged 95 mph this season, so clearly he is not healthy. And knowing how important the 24-year-old right-hander is to the team's future, there was no chance they would risk his health by allowing him to continue to pitch. The Phillies and Velasquez indicated Wednesday, however, they do not believe the injury is serious. Manager Pete Mackanin said Friday that Velasquez's MRI came back "pretty clean," and the pitches reiterated his lack of concern. "It's just a little strain, just a little fluid in there," Velasquez said, citing the results of the MRI. "We'll shoot for 15 days and go from there. I don't know how many days. It might take 10, five, who knows." Velasquez had a 2.42 ERA through his first eight starts this season. But in his previous three outings before the injury, he posted an 8.31 ERA while not making it through five innings in any of those games. Velasquez first felt something while warming up in the bullpen Wednesday, but the injury could have accounted for his recent struggles. Velasquez was the key piece in the Ken Giles trade with Houston in December. The Phillies originally agreed to send Giles to the Astros for a four-player package that included right-handers Velasquez and Thomas Eshelman, left-hander Brett Oberholtzer and outfielder Derek Fisher. However, the Phillies had apprehensions about Velasquez's physical. He had Tommy John surgery in 2010, but sources also said the club had concerns about his shoulder. In the end, the trade got delayed a few days and was reworked. The Phillies sent Giles and Minor League infielder Jonathan Arauz to the Astros for five pitchers: Velasquez, Eshelman, Oberholtzer, Mark Appel and Harold Arauz. Velasquez does not believe the biceps strain could lead to something like another elbow surgery. "It's just more in the biceps area," he said. "It's just something that's probably more minor. This is not something to be too worried about." Eflin will make his Major League debut in place of Velasquez on Tuesday. The Phillies acquired the righty from the Dodgers in exchange for Jimmy Rollins in December 2014. The 22-year-old entered the season as Philadelphia's 13th-ranked prospect according to He has a 2.90 ERA in 68 1/3 innings this season at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Until Eflin arrives, Garcia will join Philadelphia's bullpen. The 29-year-old righty has a 3.90 ERA in 113 career innings and has thrown one scoreless inning at the Major League level in 2016. "He's got stuff to be a real good pitcher at this level," Mackanin said of Garcia. "It's always about command, control. If you can command your stuff, throw quality strikes, he's got the ability to be a real good relief pitcher."

Draft Recap – The Phillies believe they got some serious bang for their buck in the first three rounds of the 2016 MLB Draft. They selected three high schoolers: outfielder Mickey Moniak with the first overall pick, right-hander Kevin Gowdy in the second round and shortstop Cole Stobbe, whom they selected in the third round Friday afternoon. The Phillies used their remaining seven picks Friday to select college players. Overall, the Phillies have selected six pitchers and four position players in the first 10 rounds. "We feel we got two first-rounders with the first two picks and really a compensation-type pick in the third round," Phillies amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz said Friday night. "We thought all of those high school players have superior ability over a lot of the college guys." Track every Phillies pick from Day 2 of the 2016 MLB Draft, which consisted of Rounds 3-10. The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on at noon ET. Round 3 (78th overall), Cole Stobbe, SS-3B, Millard West HS (Omaha, Neb.): MLB Pipeline had Stobbe at No. 47 on its Draft board. He is committed to Arkansas, but they expect him to sign. Scouts love Stobbe's makeup. The right-handed hitter has a quick, compact stroke and hits the ball to all fields. He hit 14 home runs as a senior, and some project him to be a batter who could hit .280 with 15-18 homers per season in the big leagues. He is expected to remain at shortstop. One scout told MLB Pipeline that Stobbe is a poor-man's version of Rockies rookie Trevor Story. Round 4 (107th overall), JoJo Romero, LHP, Yavapai College (Prescott, Ariz.): Romero's junior college knows big leaguers. It has produced players like Curt Schilling and Ken Giles. Romero, who the Phillies also expect to sign, has a four-pitch mix, with his four-seam fastball touching 94-95 mph. He also throws a curveball, a slider and a changeup. Scouts told MLB Pipeline there are some concerns about his durability, so he might end up in the bullpen. But the Phillies view him as a starter. "We followed JoJo throughout the year and we felt he was just a really tough competitor, a good pitcher. He's got three above-average pitches," Almaraz said. "There's still room for growth." Round 5 (137th overall), Cole Irvin, LHP, University of Oregon: MLB Pipeline ranked him 138th on its Draft list. Of the college players the Phillies selected Friday, Irvin could be the fastest mover through the farm system. Irvin had Tommy John surgery in 2014, but he pitched well this season with the Ducks. In fact, his fastball hit 93-94 mph after adding some strength. Irvin also throws a slider and a changeup, and he throws his pitches with the same arm speed, which adds deception. The twice-drafted Irvin is the epitome of the advanced college lefty when he is firing on all cylinders. "He's definitely a polished left-handed pitcher," Almaraz said. Round 6 (167th overall), David Martinelli, CF, Dallas Baptist: MLB Pipeline ranked him 74th on its list. The Phillies love his upside. In fact, they think he might have the highest ceiling of any of the college players the Phillies drafted on Day 2. Dallas Baptist has produced big leaguers Ben Zobrist, Jason LaRue and Lew Ford. Martinelli has plenty of tools, although scouts have been wary about some swing-and-miss issues. He ranked among the NCAA Division I strikeout leaders in each of his first two seasons. He also hit .141 with a wooden bat in the Cape Cod League. That said, Martinelli, who can play all three outfield positions, cut his strikeout rate by almost two-thirds this season. He has been much more consistent at the plate, driving the ball to all fields. "He's really a five-tool player," Almaraz said. Round 7 (197th overall), Henri Lartigue, C, University of Mississippi: The switch-hitting junior led his team with a .353 batting average and a .414 on-base percentage. He also had 11 doubles, four home runs and 31 RBIs in 207 at-bats. He was a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, which is given to the nation's top college catcher. Round 8 (227th overall), Grant Dyer, RHP, UCLA: Dyer went 4-4 with a 4.50 ERA in 13 starts this season. He has pitched in the bullpen in the past, and some think his stuff will play up better there. He struck out 70 and walked 24 in 80 innings. Round 9 (257th overall), Blake Quinn, RHP, Cal State Fullerton: Quinn, who is 6-foot-4 and 222 pounds, transferred from Fresno State and pitched well as a junior. He went 4-3 with a 2.16 ERA, striking out 69 in 66 innings. Round 10 (287th overall), Julian Garcia, RHP, Metro State College (Denver): The sophomore went 5-7 with a 2.90 ERA. He struck out 95 and walked 29 in 83 2/3 innings. He is the 11th player in school history to be drafted, but he is hoping to become the first player to reach the big leagues.

Today In Phils History – Five years after former Phillie Frank Thomas was born in 1929, the Phillies acquired Dolph Camilli. In 1951, the Phillies made another addition in Ted Kazanski. 5 years later a truly rare occurrence happened on the diamond when catcher Stan Lopata stole home on the back end of a double steal. In 1983, Steve Carlton recorded his 100th strikeout of the year which was also his 17th consecutive season reaching that benchmark tying Warren Spahn’s NL record. 2 years later, in a win against the Mets that saw the Phillies set franchise records for runs scored (26), hits (27), and total bases (47), Von Hayes became the 21st player in MLB history to hit 2 homeruns in an inning. 5 years later, Lenny Dykstra entered the day with a .407 average (he would finish the year at .325). Another outfielder on that 1990 team was Ron Jones who was born on this day in 1964. And, finally, it was on this day in 1999 when Randy Wolf made his major league debut with the Phillies.

The Phillies are currently 29-32 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 43-58-0 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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