Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Bullpen Falters Erasing Nola’s Stellar Start

GAME RECAP: Marlins Edge Phillies 3-2

The Marlins continue to be one of the best stories in baseball this season. Following Jose Fernandez's 14 strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings for Miami, Marcell Ozuna knocked in the game-tying run with two outs in the ninth and Martin Prado hit the game-winning home run in the 11th to beat the Phillies on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, 3-2. The victory moved the Marlins into sole possession of the second National League Wild Card, one game ahead of the Mets. "You kinda feel like you stole that one, but that's what you've gotta do to be a good team," Marlins left fielder Christian Yelich said. "That was a big win for us." It was the first win for the Marlins this season when they were trailing after eight innings. They had previously been 0-40. "I think [the come-from-behind win] gives you confidence from the standpoint that you're not out of games," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Even in a game where we basically got handcuffed most of the night, our pitching kept us there … in striking distance, where we're able to get to the point where one baserunner changes the game." The Phillies' bullpen spoiled a superb effort from right-hander Aaron Nola, who had struggled in his previous five starts. Nola allowed two hits and struck out five in six scoreless innings. He had been in line for the win until Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez blew his third save of the season in the ninth. "It's a shame we couldn't hold onto that lead in the ninth," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "But the good news was Nola. He pitched really well. He was painting both sides of the plate. He had his fastball working on both corners, down in the zone. Very encouraging."

  • The Phillies skipped Nola's last start before the All-Star break, saying he needed to clear his mind after posting a 13.50 ERA in his previous five starts. Nola disputed he needed a mental break, but whatever the reason for his struggles, he looked like himself again. "It was a tough month for me," Nola said afterward. "Those two weeks off felt like a really long time, and I was ready to get back on the mound."
  • Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera ripped a double down the left-field line in the bottom of the first and advanced to third on a dropped third strike. He later scored on Maikel Franco's groundout to second to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. The score remained the same until the seventh, when Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph crushed an 0-1 breaking ball to left field for a solo home run to make it 2-0. "That was nice heads-up baserunning," Mackanin said.
  • The Phillies looked to have escaped Fernandez's 14-K day with a win when they handed the game off to Gomez in the ninth. But hits from J.T. Realmuto, Yelich and Ozuna combined for two runs that tied the game. Mattingly pinch-ran Yefri Perez for Giancarlo Stanton, but the Marlins would not miss him. Two innings later, Prado put the third pitch he saw from Brett Oberholtzer into the left-field seats to give the Marlins the decisive, 3-2 lead. Gomez hadn't blown a save since June 12 and it was just his third in 28 attempts this season. "I'm just happy to see everybody not panic when we don't need to," Prado said. "We just made it out all the way ... You never know what's going to happen." Fernandez was watching the ninth-inning comeback from the clubhouse, where he was getting his routine postgame treatment on his arm. "I was watching and I was like, 'Come on!' 'Come on!' It was fun to watch. That tells you how good this team is."
  • Joseph has 12 homers in his first 48 games in a Phillies uniform. According to Elias, he is the fourth Phillies player to hit 12 homers in his first 48 games. The others are Raul Ibanez (17), Pete Incaviglia (12) and Lefty O'Doul (12).
    Velasquez has faced the Marlins twice this season, with neither outing going particularly smoothly. In his first, Velasquez allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings. He didn't allow a run his next time facing the Fish, but it took him 103 pitches to make it through five, striking out 10.
  • Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez blew his first save in over a month in Monday's game, allowing two runs to tie the game in the ninth before Martin Prado hit a go-ahead home run in the 11th. It was just Gomez's third blown save in 28 attempts.
  • Ichiro Suzuki went hitless in two at-bats Monday after staying in the game as a sub, but he is just six hits away from 3,000. He has struck out just four times in his last 104 plate appearances against right-handers, the lowest strikeout rate in the league over that span.

The Marlins played their first four games out of the All-Star break with an extra hand on the bench, choosing to carry the wheels of Yefri Perez rather than a fifth starter. But the fifth rotation spot rolled around and the Marlins optioned Perez back to Triple-A, recalling Jose Urena to start against the Phillies on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET in the second of a four-game set in Philadelphia. Perez ran into an out at third base while pinch-running for Giancarlo Stanton in the ninth inning of Monday's 3-2 win. He stole a base and scored a run in the only other action he saw in the bigs. Urena (1-1, 7.52 ERA) has appeared in 16 games for Miami this season, but this will be his first start. He has been in Triple-A since the start of June. In his last appearance, May 30 against the Pirates, he gave up four runs in an inning of work. The Phillies send Vince Velasquez (8-2, 3.32 ERA) to the mound in search of their first win of the series following an 11-inning loss Monday. After giving the Phillies a scare with decreased velocity in his second-to-last start before the All-Star break, which the club attributed to a dead arm, Velasquez was back to bringing the heat in Colorado. In his final start before the break, Velasquez went six innings of two-run ball, and his fastball averaged nearly 95 mph, close to his career average.


Return To Form – Aaron Nola finally looked like himself again Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. He allowed two hits, one walk and struck out five in six scoreless innings in a 3-2 loss in 11 innings to the Marlins. He threw just 68 pitches with the trademark command that made him the seventh overall pick in the 2014 Draft. "He was back to being himself," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. Nola's return to form is a relief for the Phillies, who watched him post a 13.50 ERA in his previous five starts. He struggled so much in that stretch -- he pitched five innings just once -- that the Phillies skipped his final start before the All-Star break, saying he needed to rest and clear his mind. Nola disputed the notion he needed a mental break, believing he simply had to improve the location of his pitches, keeping the ball down in the strike zone. "It was a tough month for me," Nola said afterward. "Those two weeks off felt like a really long time, and I was ready to get back on the mound." He immediately looked different than he had in the previous month, retiring the Marlins in order in the first inning. Nola entered the game with a 7.94 ERA in the first inning this season. He had not pitched a clean first inning since May 25 against the Tigers. "He pitched really well," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was painting both sides of the plate. He had his fastball working on both corners, down in the zone." "He was confident," Rupp said. "He probably had a little fatigue [in June], just his first full big league season. He's 23 years old. He's young. He was seven, eight innings almost every start. His innings built up quick, and he probably just ran out of juice a little bit." But feeling refreshed, Nola faced the minimum through 5 1/3 innings when Adeiny Hechavarria ripped a line drive off Nola's right shoulder. Nola remained in the game and finished the inning. He said the arm feels fine. "I didn't want that thing to tighten up on him," Mackanin said. "He said he was fine. It was two-fold. I didn't want that thing to tighten up between innings and take any chances. Plus, getting him out on a positive note like that was important." Of course, the next step for Nola is stringing a few solid starts together. He certainly is capable of that. He posted a 2.65 ERA in his first 12 starts this season. "He made a lot of great pitches," Mackanin said. "It was great to see. Very encouraging. I was happy to see it."

Making Room – Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr took another step Monday in his return to the big leagues, which means the Phillies are getting closer to making room for him on the 25-man roster. Altherr had his rehab assignment transferred to Class A Clearwater from the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Phillies. Altherr, who tore a tendon in his left wrist in March, began his rehab assignment on July 8, which means the Phillies must activate him from the disabled list on July 28 if he is healthy. "I'm anxious to see where he's at in another week or two," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "This was an important year to see how good he could be. Let's say he finishes the last two months of the season, that could give us a better indication. But it's a shame we couldn't find out watching him play the whole year." The Phillies could trade Peter Bourjos before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline to make room for Altherr. Bourjos is a free agent after the season, which provides the Phillies some motivation to move him. But teams could be motivated to acquire him, too. Bourjos entered Monday's series opener against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park hitting .381 (37-for-97) with seven doubles, four triples, three home runs, 10 RBIs and a 1.052 OPS in 29 games since June 12. "I've read where there's interest in [Jeremy] Hellickson, and there might be interest in some other players, but it's so much out of my hands that I don't even worry about it," Mackanin said. "We'll make adjustments when we have to and I'm sure, depending on if and when they make moves, then immediately we'll discuss who takes their place and it'll happen overnight whether it's a callup or whatever, or part of a trade."

Today In Phils History – When John McGraw made his managerial debut with the Giants in 1902, the Phillies offered him a rude reception by handing him his first loss. However, when Juan Marichal made his debut with the Giants in 1960, it was a completely different outcome as he threw a 1 hit shutout. 3 years later, Roy Sievers hit his 300th career homerun to beat the Mets and hand Roger Craig his 14th straight loss. Greg Luzinski’s homer contributed to the NL victory at Yankee Stadium during the 1977 All Star Game. 5 years later, Gary Matthews completed a franchise record streak by going 11 straight game where he only collected 1 hit in each contest. It was on this day in 1993 when John Kruk’s cup was shattered by an errant pick off attempt from Mitch Williams against the Dodgers which would later lead to his testicular cancer diagnosis the following spring. Finally, happy birthday Jonathan Pettibone, wherever you may be.

The Phillies are currently 43-51 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 56-62-0 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.

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