Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Where is Taka Tanaka When You Need Him?

GAME RECAP: D-Backs Sweep Phils 3-1 

The D-backs hate to leave Citizens Bank Park, but they'll have the opportunity to play the Phillies again next week at Chase Field. Arizona swept the four-game series with Monday afternoon's 3-1 victory. D-backs right-hander Shelby Miller cruised in his return to the rotation, as he allowed five hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings. D-backs third baseman Jake Lamb hit a two-run home run against Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson in the first inning to give the D-backs a three-run lead. Arizona slugged 10 homers during the series. "Anytime you sweep a team -- especially in four games -- it's huge," Lamb said. "The pitching was great and the hitting was obviously unreal with all the home runs." The Phillies continue to struggle since a surprising 24-17 start. They are 6-24 since, which is the worst record in baseball since May 18. They also suffered their first winless homestand of six or more games since going 0-7 at Connie Mack Stadium in September 1964. "It's disappointing to lose at home or the road," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "An 0-6 homestand is never fun. But we just have to move on."

  • It looked ugly early for Hellickson, who had a 7.41 ERA in his previous three starts. He allowed three runs in the first inning to hand Arizona a 3-0 lead, but he settled after that. He allowed just two hits in his final six innings. The Phillies hope Hellickson gets on track with the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching. He could be an intriguing trade piece to a contending team looking for backend rotation help. "Without question he could be a big trade chip for us," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, "but he's had enough good outings where I like him pitching for us." Hellickson declined to comment on any trade talks postgame.
  • "Yeah, it's hard to stay patient, but the alternative is to give up and I'm not going to give up. We're all competitors. I hate losing, nobody likes it. I don't expect the players to be happy. I expect when you're losing the players not to be in a good mood. The alternative is to just give up and keep taking it or fight and come out of it." -- Mackanin, on the team's continued struggles.
  • The Phillies have scored two or fewer runs in each of their last seven home games, which is their longest stretch at home since an eight-game streak from Sept. 14-23, 1938.
The Phillies open a nine-game road trip Tuesday night at 8:10 ET in Minnesota. Right-hander Aaron Nola (5-6, 3.61 ERA) pitches the series opener against the Twins. Nola has really struggled in his last two starts, allowing 10 earned runs in just 6 2/3 innings. Right-hander Aaron Nola (5-6, 3.51 ERA) pitches the series opener against the Twins.


Another Quality Start, Another Loss – With the Draft in the rearview mirror, the Phillies are beginning to prepare to field calls for players as the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches. Jeremy Hellickson, whose contract expires and the end of the season, figures to be one of a handful of players teams inquire about. If Hellickson's last three starts scared anyone off, his seven innings of three-run ball against the D-backs in Monday's 3-1 loss should at least temper those fears. "Without question he could be a big trade chip for us," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, "but he's had enough good outings where I like him pitching for us." When Hellickson was asked about possibly playing in a different jersey a month from now, he responded, "I'm not gonna talk about that right now." Prior to Monday's outing, Hellickson had a 7.41 ERA over his last three starts. Although the numbers are ugly, Hellickson takes pride in the fact he was still able to eat innings in those starts. "The last two at least I went six innings," Hellickson said. "Really, that's the only positive taken from those two was to get through six and save the bullpen a little bit." The Phillies need a guy who can ease the load on the other young arms in the rotation. Hellickson provides that, going at least six innings in nine of his starts. The 29-year-old Hellickson stands alone in the Phillies' rotation as the only pitcher over 25 years old. No other Philadelphia starter has a full big league season under their belt. Hellickson has five. On paper, Hellickson may act best as a trade chip, but as long as he is with the Phillies, he plays a crucial role in the clubhouse and on the field. "You need somebody to set an example," Mackanin said, pointing out how Hellickson bounced back from a rough start to the game, retiring 22 of the final 24 D-backs he faced. Hellickson allowed four straight D-backs hits to start the game, resulting in three runs, but he limited them to just two baserunners over his last six innings. The Phillies' offense again could not back up a strong outing from a starting pitcher. That's why many pegged the Phils, now losers of 24 of their last 30, to be sellers at the Deadline before the season and why they sit at 30-41 after getting off to a surprising 24-17 start. Hellickson is no stranger to the wheelings and dealings of MLB front offices. He has twice been dealt, first in 2014 from Tampa Bay to Arizona and again the following offseason to Philadelphia. Should he continue to pitch as he did Monday and in many of his first 11 starts, Hellickson will be on a crash course with his first in-season trade.

Will Anything Work? – Is there anything Pete Mackanin has not tried to help the Phillies' offense this season? Mackanin ordered his hitters not to pick up a bat before Monday's 3-1 loss to the D-backs at Citizens Bank Park. No hitting on the field. No hitting in the cage, which is a short walk from the Phillies' clubhouse. Nothing. "Just show and go," said Mackanin, who also gave the team an unusually late 11:45 a.m. report time for the 1:05 p.m. game. "Change the vibe. Whether it's good or not, I don't know, but it's something different. Try something." "We did that a couple times in St. Louis," Phillies right fielder Peter Bourjos said. "You showed up late to the field and the cages were closed. Just try to get your head away from the mechanics side of it, just take it into the game -- see ball, hit ball." The Phillies managed just six hits in the loss, which continued a troubling trend. They are averaging a mere 3.11 runs per game this season, which ranks last in baseball. No team has averaged fewer runs per game in a non-strike-shortened season since 1972, when the Angels (2.93), Rangers (2.99) and Indians (3.03) each endured offensive struggles. The Phillies are 6-24 since their surprising 24-17 start. They just went 0-6 on a homestand against Toronto and Arizona. Incredibly, it is their first winless homestand of six or more games since September 1964, when the Phillies went 0-7 at Connie Mack Stadium. Perhaps a nine-game road trip will help, even if just a little bit? The Phillies are hitting .214 with a .612 OPS at home, compared to .237 with a .668 OPS on the road. "It's very frustrating," Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera said through an interpreter. "Where there is frustration, there is some anger there, I guess. It's very hard, because we are giving 100 percent and it's not working out for us. But we need to keep mentally strong and keep fighting, because we know it's going to get better." But the personnel is the personnel, and there is only so much a team or manager can do. Still, the Phillies push on. "It's been a grind all year," Bourjos said. "You come to the field every day, trying to win and trying to put together good at-bats. You feel for the pitching staff, because they've pitched well and I think it's starting to catch up a little bit."

Injury Updates – Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez, on the 15-day disabled list since June 9 because of a strained right biceps, is scheduled to make a rehab start Wednesday with Double-A Reading. Velasquez is confident he will need only one rehab start before rejoining the Phillies' rotation. "It was something very minor," Velasquez said. "It's something that was tugging. I had a solid week of treatment. I don't think it's going to be two starts. I don't think two starts is going to make it even better. I think one and done and let's go." Dalier Hinojosa began a rehab assignment Monday with Class A Clearwater. Hinojosa has been on the 15-day disabled list since April 29 because of a bruised right hand. He was 0-1 with a 3.27 ERA in 10 appearances before the injury.

(Draft) Deal Done – Phillies prospect Mickey Moniak is signed and ready to begin his professional baseball career. The Phillies announced Monday afternoon they had signed the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 Draft. Two sources told MLB.com that Moniak agreed to a $6.1 million signing bonus, which is well under the $9,015,000 allotted for the pick. The Phillies will use the savings there to sign second-round pick Kevin Gowdy, a right-hander who has committed to UCLA. The 42nd overall pick is allotted $1,536,200. Gowdy, who could agree as early as Tuesday, could receive in the neighborhood of $3 million. Moniak's $6.1 million bonus is less than what No. 2 overall pick Nick Senzel received from the Reds, who gave the University of Tennessee third baseman a $6.2 million bonus. Moniak took his physical Monday in Philadelphia. The team tweeted photos of Moniak signing his contract with his family and Phillies general manager Matt Klentak in the evening. A news conference was held Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. Moniak is expected to begin his career with the Gulf Coast League Phillies. Moniak is a 6-foot-2, 185-pound left-handed hitter from La Costa Canyon (Calif.) High School. His stock started to rise last summer and continued to rise through the spring. He hit .476 with 12 triples, seven home runs, 46 RBIs and a .921 slugging percentage in his senior year. The Phillies scouted him extensively, with everybody from Pat Gillick to Charlie Manuel, two of the club's senior advisors, meeting with Moniak on more than one occasion. "The No.1 pick has always been a dream," Moniak said June 9. "Up until the point where the Commissioner said my name, it was all a mystery. When it happened, it was unbelievable." Moniak is most often compared to Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich. He is a talented hitter who possesses gap power and is an above-average runner who has the potential to be a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder. Moniak is not a big guy, so scouts wonder if he will hit for power in the big leagues. Phillies amateur scouting director Johnny Almaraz said he thinks Moniak will hit 15-22 homers in the big leagues. "I think you'll have a Gold Glove center fielder who will hit in the middle of the lineup and be a leader on the team," Almaraz said. Moniak is the sixth outfielder to be selected first overall since 1986. The previous five are Bryce Harper (2010), Delmon Young ('03), Josh Hamilton (1999), Darin Erstad ('95) and Ken Griffey Jr. ('87). The Phillies selected Pat Burrell with the first overall pick in '98, although he was officially listed as a third baseman.

Today In Phils History – In a rare occurrence, on this day in 1955 Richie Ashburn hit 2 homeruns in a game (1 of 3 in his career) which is surprising for a player who only had 29 career homers. Another oddity occurred on this day in 1963 when the only players to collect multiple hits in the game were the starting pitchers, Al Jackson for the Mets and the Cal McLish for the Phillies. The following year, Jim Bunning became a legend when, during the first game of a Father’s Day double header, he threw the first perfect game (his 2nd no hitter) in the NL in nearly 84 years. Rookie Rick Wise collected his first MLB win in game 2. In 2000, Pat Burrell became the first Phillies rookie to have a multi homerun game when he hit 2 against the Mets (he would repeat the feat later in the season. 3 years later, Jim Thome had a 2 homerun game as well with both long balls tying the game first in the 8th and later in the 12th becoming 1 of only 6 players to have done so after the 7th inning. The following year, Jimmy Rollins hit the first inside the park homerun as Citizens Bank Park. 4 years later, the magic of the season took an inning off as, for the 2nd time in team histoy, the Phillies struck out 4 times in an inning. 4 years later, and 100 years after Eppa Rixey’s MLB debut with the Phillies, Jimmy Rollins joined VP Biden at the White House to introduce a PSA against violence toward women. And, finally, happy birthday to Ed Watkins who was born on this day in 1877.

The Phillies are currently 30-41 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 44-51-0 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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