Sunday, July 3, 2016

Phillies Can’t Contain Morales And Royals

GAME RECAP: Royals Beat Phillies 6-2

Kendrys Morales continues to be the hottest hitter in baseball. The designated-hitter-turned-right-fielder put a second-inning pitch from Aaron Nola into the right-field seats to cap a five-run inning for the Royals in their 6-2 win over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday. He added a second from the other side of the plate in the eighth for his third home run in the last two days and seventh in his past 13 games. Over that span, Morales is batting .565 (26-for-46) and has driven in 21 runs. The three runs that crossed the plate on Morales' second-inning blast were all the Royals needed behind 8 2/3 innings of two-run ball from Danny Duffy, but they had already plated two runs earlier in the second on RBI singles from Duffy and Whit Merrifield. "He's been great," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Morales. "It's worked out really, really good. We're in this little run of National League parks. The first couple of days it was kind of just being interested to see what would happen [with Morales in right]. And now it's just, 'Hey, it's worked out really well.' “To get that hot bat in the lineup is great. And he has done OK out there. He hasn't hurt us. He's carrying us right now." Duffy held the Phillies scoreless for seven innings after Peter Bourjos tripled and Maikel Franco singled him home in the first. A ninth-inning rally kept Duffy from his first career complete game and gave the Phillies their second run on a Cesar Hernandez RBI single. "Duffy's got good stuff," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Boy, he's a tough pitcher. I liked what I saw from him. … Three infield hits, not much to talk about. But Duffy's tough. I like him." "Obviously, it's cool to finish a game," Duffy said, "because those guys in the bullpen have picked me up so many times when I've been inefficient. So if I got the opportunity to, might as well try to save another day." After taking two in St. Louis to begin the road trip, this win gives the Royals as many over their last four games away from Kauffman Stadium as they had in their previous 14.

  • Nola left the game on a roll of 10 straight Royals retired. He sent down each Kansas City batter he faced after Morales' three-run jack. Of those 10, six went down by strikeout, including redemption for Nola, getting Morales swinging on a curve outside the zone. Although Nola allowed five runs in five innings, it stands as his best start since June 5. It was the first time he made it through five innings since that start. "I felt like my old self," Nola said. "I felt like that's what I'm used to doing. That's what I usually do: command my fastball and my breaking ball and my changeup. Those last three innings are definitely a help for me." Even in the five-run second, Nola said he felt better than he had in his past four outings. Besides that second inning, Mackanin thought Nola's start was "encouraging" -- a word he repeated a handful of times. At 95 pitches, Mackanin was likely to pull his 23-year-old starter after five, regardless. But letting him leave on the note he did should only help his confidence going forward. Mackanin will meet with his staff later Saturday night to decide whether to let Nola make one more start before the All-Star break. As the rotation currently lines up, that would come Thursday in Colorado. "I'd rather take the ball and keep going out there and make pitches," Nola said of his preference.
  • The Phillies manufactured their first run on the backs of the two hitters they've relied on most recently. Bourjos tripled in the first inning and Franco drove him home on a dribbler that went off Duffy's glove. Bourjos led all NL hitters in the month of June with a .410 average. He added a third-inning infield single for his fifth multi-hit effort in his last eight games. Franco twice went the other way for singles Saturday after doing the same in Friday's game. Since the Phillies hit the road at the end of June, Franco has hit .341 (14-for-41) and walked more times (eight) than he's struck out (seven).
  • The speedy Bourjos almost added a third hit to his night on a fifth-inning ground ball to Cheslor Cuthbert at third. After hustling down the line, Bourjos was initially ruled safe. But the Royals challenged and the call was overturned after a 45-second review to end the inning.
  • Nola is the first Phillies starter to allow five or more runs in four consecutive starts since Tyler Cloyd had a five-start streak in 2013.
Vince Velasquez (6-2, 3.38) will make his first home start since leaving his June 8 start against the Cubs after two pitches. In his return from the DL in Arizona, Velasquez threw five shutout innings and struck out seven.


Positive Signs – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin spoke candidly Saturday afternoon about the possibilities for Aaron Nola if he struggled for a fifth consecutive start that night against the Royals at Citizens Bank Park. Options included skipping his next start, having him rejoin the Phillies' rotation following the All-Star break, or optioning him to the Minor Leagues, where he could fix his mechanics and regain his confidence in a more relaxed environment. The Phillies seemed to be setting up those possibilities, mentioning Nola could be battling a "dead arm." Nola allowed five runs in five innings in a 6-2 loss to the Royals, making him 0-4 with a 13.50 ERA in his last five starts. But Nola also retired the final 10 batters he faced, striking out six of them. "I felt like my old self right there," Nola said. "Very encouraging," Mackanin said. But Mackanin remained noncommittal when asked if Nola will make his next scheduled start Thursday in Colorado. "We'll see," he said. "We're going to talk about it." Nola obviously wants to pitch at Coors Field. "I'd rather take the ball," he said. "I'd rather keep going out there. … Overall I feel good, my body is healthy." But a skipped start could have its benefits. The Phillies gave Cole Hamels an extra two days of rest in July 2013, when he was 2-11 with a 4.58 ERA. They said they hoped the extra time could clear Hamels' mind. Hamels disagreed with the assessment that he needed a break, but he went 6-3 with a 2.68 ERA in his final 16 starts. Nola allowed five runs in a second inning that included a little bit of bad luck. The Royals had runners on first and second with no outs when Jarrod Dyson hit a ground ball to Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez. It looked like a double-play opportunity, but Hernandez could not get the ball out of his glove quickly enough, instead getting only a forceout at second base. Royals pitcher Danny Duffy then popped a bunt over Nola's head for the first hit of his career, which allowed Cheslor Cuthbert to score. Alex Gordon flied out to left field for the second out -- it would have been the third if Hernandez had flipped the ball to Freddy Galvis earlier or if Duffy's bunt hadn't landed in no man's land -- then Whit Merrifield singled and Kendrys Morales followed with a homer to right to make it 5-1. Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure visited Nola on the mound after the homer. Nola did not allow a baserunner the rest of the way, which included his first 1-2-3 inning since May 31. But the line remains the same: five innings, six hits, five runs, five earned runs, one walk, seven strikeouts, one home run. He became the first Phillies starter to allow five or more runs in four consecutive starts since Tyler Cloyd had a five-start streak in 2013. "I don't think I have dead arm," Nola said. "Maybe the ball wasn't coming out as good [in June], but I was healthy through this month. I've been healthy all year, and my arm's been feeling pretty good. I think there were just some command issues and trying to overthrow. I feel like today I challenged the hitters and kind of went right after them." Mackanin said the Phillies should have an answer about Nola as early as Sunday. He said he and management will make the decision. "I'm going to see what they have to say, but I'm planning to make my next start," Nola said. "I feel good right now."

Today In Phils History – In 1935, Phillies centerfielder Ethan Allen turned a dropped fly ball into a crucial double play that preserved the win against the Giants. Pirates 2B Johnny O’Brien was called on to pitch against the Phillies in 1956 and subsequently held them scoreless over 2 2/3 innings allowing him to collect the win. In 1965, 1B Frank Thomas swung his bat at OF Dick Allen during the pre-game workout and, despite hitting a pinch homer to tie the game in the 8th against the Reds, was released following the game. Mike Schmidt almost had two inside the park homeruns in the same game in 1977 but was thrown out at the plate in his first attempt to circle the bases against the Pirates. In 1983, Willie Hernandez struck out the final 6 Mets batters tying the NL record for consecutive strikeouts by a reliever. The following season, a Veterans Stadium record crowd of 63,816 was on hand to watch the Phillies fall to the Reds 6-5. In 1996, Mets rookie OF Alex Ochoa went 5-for-5 and hit for the cycle in a 10-6 win over the Phillies. 5 years later, Chipper Jones reached base in all 5 of this plate appearances against the Phillies collecting 2 home runs, a double, single, and a walk in a 14-7 Braves victory.

The Phillies are currently 36-46 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 49-52-0 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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