Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Phillies Continue Their Hot Streak

GAME RECAP: Phillies Pound Braves 8-2

The Phillies seem to have finally unlocked the secrets to their own ballpark. After struggling offensively at Citizens Bank Park for most of the season, they have been hitting the ball much better on their current six-game homestand. That included Monday's 8-2 victory over the Braves on Independence Day. The Phillies pounded out eight extra-base hits, including home runs from Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera, as Jerad Eickhoff pitched superbly through 7 2/3 innings. "Confidence, man, it's through the roof," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. Braves shortstop Erick Aybar hit a solo homer in the first inning to give the Braves the lead, but they got little going after that.

  • The Phillies scored a season-high seven runs in the second inning. It included six extra-base hits, with doubles from Cameron Rupp, Tommy Joseph and Peter Bourjos, a triple from Cesar Hernandez and home runs from Herrera and Franco. Franco's homer in the second travelled a projected 448 feet, making it the Phillies' longest of the season. He swung hard and missed on the first pitch in the at-bat, before calming down and crushing the second. "On that first swing, yes," Franco said with a laugh, acknowledging he wanted to go deep. "But on the second one, I just tried to see the ball and put good contact on it." "We had a tough inning; [De La Cruz] had a tough inning," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "The whole inning got away from us. He got the ball up a lot in that inning, and some balls were hit pretty hard."
  • Phillies right-hander Eickhoff has been cruising since the end of May. He is 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA in his last seven starts, including this dominant effort against the Braves. He allowed two runs on five hits with three walks and eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings. It marked the first time a Phillies starter pitched more than seven innings since Vince Velasquez's complete game on April 14 against the Padres. "I feel good," Eickhoff said. "I feel good mechanically and mentally. I'm just going to try and stay right where I want -- not too high and not too low. I'm going to try and help this game any way I can."
  • "I can't complain about the hitting anymore. I mean, these guys, the hitting continues. It's great to see." -- Phillies manager Pete Mackanin, on the Phillies' suddenly potent offense.
  • De La Cruz became the first pitcher to allow eight or more extra-base hits to the Phillies in a game since the Cardinals' Dizzy Dean gave up eight in 14 innings on May 26, 1933, at Sportsman's Park. It was the first time the Phillies had eight extra-base hits in a game since July 26, 2015, against the Cubs. It was also the first time the Phillies began a game with eight consecutive extra-base hits since June 5, 1988, against the Cardinals.
  • Eickhoff has 18 quality starts in his first 25 career outings, which ties Hall of Fame right-hander Robin Roberts and right-hander Art Mahaffey for the most quality starts through the first 25 starts of a Phillies' career (since 1913). The last two pitchers to have at least 18 in their first 25 starts were the Mets' Jacob deGrom (20) and the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka (19).
Right-hander Zach Eflin (0-2, 5.75 ERA) pitches the second of the three-game series at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Eflin has pitched pretty well since his big league debut on June 14 in Toronto, posting a 2.54 ERA in his last three starts.


Home Is Where The Homers Are – The Phillies are finally learning what previous Phillies teams knew long ago: Citizens Bank Park isn't a bad place to hit. They beat the Braves on Monday, 8-2, with the help of eight extra-base hits. Six of those hits came in the second inning when the Phillies scored a season-high seven runs. Braves right-hander Joel De La Cruz became the first pitcher to allow eight or more extra-base hits to the Phillies in a game since Dizzy Dean gave up eight in 14 innings on May 26, 1933, at Sportsman's Park. "Confidence breeds success," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp said. "I think when we were struggling, it's hard to have confidence going up there, especially going up against some of the veteran pitchers we faced that know how to pitch and have been in the big leagues a long time versus a very young lineup. I think the confidence was a little down, then you start running into some pitches and the line keeps moving. … Confidence, man, it's through the roof." The Phillies have averaged six runs per game in their last 13 contests after averaging 3.11 runs per game in their first 71. Much of the Phillies' early struggles came at home. The Phillies opened their six-game homestand against the Royals and Braves posting a .608 OPS and averaging 2.7 runs per game at Citizens Bank Park, compared to a .724 OPS and 4.2 runs per game on the road. Those are pretty significant splits. Rupp credits the team's offensive resurgence to their success last weekend in San Francisco. The Phillies lost two of three, but they beat Madison Bumgarner on June 25 and scored six runs in six innings against Johnny Cueto in a losing effort on June 26. "Every one of those games was a dogfight for us," Rupp said, "and I think we've got a lot of respect for ourselves, knowing that we can play anybody. Those guys won three out of the last five World Series with the same guys that were out there playing against us. I think that showed us that we can play with anybody."

Going Deep – Maikel Franco declared his intentions with a healthy hack in the second inning on Monday at Citizens Bank Park. He swung hard and missed a first-pitch slider almost at his eyes. Franco badly wanted to hit a home run in the 8-2 victory over the Braves, but particularly at that moment. The Phillies had already scored five runs on five extra-base hits in the inning against Braves right-hander Joel De La Cruz. Franco, who has been swinging a hot bat the past couple of weeks, wanted his big hit, too. "On that first swing, yes," Franco said with a laugh, acknowledging he wanted to go deep. "But on the second one, I just tried to see the ball and put good contact on it." Franco crushed the follow-up 92-mph sinker to left-center field for a two-run homer to give the Phillies a season-high seven runs in an inning. The ball travelled a projected 448 feet, according to Statcast™, which made it the Phillies' longest homer of the season. The previous high? Franco's 438-foot shot on Sunday against the Royals. "He let it eat for sure," said Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp, who watched Franco's cuts from the on-deck circle. "He definitely was up there with a purpose. You could tell. And then he got the next one, and it went a long way." "So that's what happens when you try to do too much," Franco said, comparing his two swings. "You miss the baseball. See the ball, hit the ball, and something good will happen." Franco has been on a tear since June 19, when his batting average (.236) and OPS (.690) hit season lows. He entered the afternoon hitting .367 (18-for-49) with three doubles, one triple, four home runs, 14 RBIs and a 1.180 OPS in 13 games since. That type of production is what the Phillies expected from Franco following an encouraging rookie season. "Right now, I feel more confident," Franco said. "I feel more comfortable at home plate. I see the ball much better, so that's what I'll continue to do." Added Phillies manager Pete Mackanin: "He's coming around nicely."

Phillies Honor Veterans – When Joe Dimond returned from his tour in Fallujah, Iraq, he was in a dark place, experiencing symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Then, he found an ear to talk to. Inspired by his experience, Dimond founded The Stain of War, a project to help veterans fight PTSD by talking about it. Often, military want to discuss their times overseas with loved ones but can't. The Stain of War acts as a middleman of sorts, helping veterans tell their stories unfiltered, normalizing the home front for them and PTSD for civilians. "I came back from war and quickly realized no one understood," Dimond said. "People are trying to kill you. There's death and destruction all around you. Then you come home and you're supposed to walk into the civilian world and go back to normal. "So I started the Stain of War to remove the stain veterans feel like they have when they have PTSD and feel like they're broken." On Independence Day, Dimond was one of close to 100 veterans the Phillies honored in an on-field ceremony before they opened a three-game set against the Braves. The festivities included at least one veteran from each conflict since World War II. The Phillies' employees who served carried flags from all 50 states onto the field. Dimond served nearly 20 years as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marines. He grew up in Delaware County, rooting for the Phillies. Now he's back -- this time in South Jersey -- and still rooting for his Phils. And on the 240th anniversary since the country gained its independence, the Phillies thanked him and every other veteran for their service. It wasn't a normal day for Dimond, for more reasons than just getting to be on the same field as the team he roots for. Because of his PTSD, Dimond tries to avoid loud, crowded environments. Sometimes, he'll swerve at trash on the road, thinking it's an improvised explosive device (IED). Occasionally, he will jolt awake because of a nightmare. But by talking about his PTSD and accepting that he's a changed man, Dimond has learned to live as close to a normal life as possible, something he struggled to do in his first year back from the battlefield, when he found himself divorced and living on a friend's couch. "You see in a lot of movies the Hollywood version of PTSD," Dimond said. "For a lot of us, it's just a heightened sense of alertness. There's a lot of different things, but we're not all monsters." That is the essence of the message The Stain of War is hoping to communicate to the public. In a little over a year since it was started, Dimond has been able to tell the stories of close to a dozen veterans. They also have a documentary in the works. Once Dimond confronted his PTSD by talking about it, he was able to lead a "relatively successful" life, as he put it. Now, he's trying to help other veterans do the same. The biggest roadblock for Dimond was overcoming the innate toughness that comes with being a serviceman. "It's, 'No, I'm a Navy SEAL, I don't need help.' It's this whole thing of 'I'm stronger than that.' No, it's not wrong to ask for help," Dimond said. "It's not wrong to deal with this. You've dealt with some life-changing events. You've seen some things that aren't typical, so we're trying to remove that whole tough guy talk."

Deciding Thursday’s Starter – The Phillies have some moves to make before the All-Star break. First, they must decide who will start in Aaron Nola's place on Thursday night against the Rockies at Coors Field. The Phillies have options: It could be left-handers Adam Morgan or Brett Oberholtzer and make it a bullpen game. They could call up somebody from Triple-A to make a spot start. "We'll know by Wednesday," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said before Monday's 8-2 win over the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. Mackanin hinted they could play a man short on the bench this weekend, which would give them an extra reliever at Coors Field. Mackanin also said the Phillies are likely to have left-hander Daniel Stumpf rejoin the roster in Sunday's series finale. Stumpf is nearing the end of his 80-game suspension for testing positive for dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing drug that first gained notoriety during the East German doping scandal. Stumpf, 25, is a Rule 5 Draft pick, so he must remain on the 25-man roster the remainder of the season to stay in the organization. Stumpf made three appearances in the Phillies' first eight games, allowing three runs on one hit (a homer) with two walks in just 2/3 inning.

Today In Phils History – In 1904, the Phillies put an end to the Giants’ 18 game winning streak. 11 years later the Giants didn’t fare much better as Grover Alexander held them to 1 hit. In 1940, the Phillies parted ways with Wally Berger. 1950 saw the birth of future Phillies player and broadcaster Gary Matthews. In 1976, in the 1st ABC Monday night game broadcast from the Vet, the Phillies did not make a good first impression getting shutout by the Dodgers and dominated by a 4-5 performance by Steve Garvey. 3 years later, Dickie Noles made his MLB debut with the Phillies. 10 years later, the Phillies Steve Jeltz scores on a passed ball in the 10th securing the unique walk off win against the Reds.  

The Phillies are currently 38-46 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 55-54-0 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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