Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Phillies Late Rally Caps Mound Dominance

GAME RECAP: Phils Gut Fish 4-0

If the Marlins don't want Jeremy Hellickson after what they have seen from him recently, they might never want him. Hellickson pitched six scoreless innings Monday night in a 4-0 victory over the Marlins at Marlins Park. Hellickson could be traded before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, and Miami is one of his top pursuers. Scouts from the Blue Jays, Giants, Orioles and Pirates were among a handful of teams that watched him pitch his latest gem. Hellickson has been impressive lately. He has allowed one run in 14 innings in two starts in the past week against Miami, which fell into a tie with the Mets for the second National League Wild Card spot. "He's not going anywhere," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp bellowed afterward in the visitors' clubhouse. "I hope not," Hellickson added. "We saw this guy a few days ago. The other day I looked up and I think he had 66 pitches after five innings. Tonight, I look up he's got 63 after five," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Hellickson. "It tells me we really didn't make an adjustment to him at all. That was a little disappointing. I thought we'd be better with him." With Wei-Yin Chen on the disabled list, Marlins right-hander Jarred Cosart pitched five scoreless innings in his return to the Majors, but their offense could not get anything going even with Hellickson out of the game. Cosart, who was 0-1 with a 7.98 ERA in three April starts before he was sent down, said his success on Monday stemmed from a new delivery he worked on in the Minors. He now starts his windup in a stretch position, which simplified his delivery. "It feels good. I feel healthy," Cosart said. "I feel like I had a pretty good idea of what all my pitches were doing tonight. [JT Realmuto] and I were on the same page. I had some really good defensive plays behind me."

  • Ten of the Phillies' 11 outs from the fifth through the eighth innings came on strikeouts. In fact, they had runners on second and third with no outs in the seventh only to have Cody Asche, Peter Bourjos and Ryan Howard strike out. But after Cesar Hernandez and Odubel Herrera struck out to start the eighth, Maikel Franco walked and Tommy Joseph doubled to score Franco to give the Phillies a 1-0 lead. Philadelphia added three insurance runs in the ninth off A.J. Ramos. "After the seventh inning after we didn't score, I didn't think we had a chance to win this game," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I just thought that their bullpen -- we were in trouble. Joseph's big hit off of [Fernando Rodney], who's tough to hit, that was huge, obviously."
  • Hellickson has not only allowed just one run in his last 14 innings, but he also has a 2.20 ERA in his last seven starts. So it isn't like he just started to pitch well. Hellickson is scheduled to make one more start before the Trade Deadline, but one wonders if he will get there. "It doesn't bother me," Hellickson said about his name circulating in trade rumors. "Once I'm in this locker room -- obviously you still see it on TV and stuff -- my focus was on helping us win today. Now, it's on to the next start, so I definitely, like I told you guys, I see it and read about it, but it's been like this for a few years now, so it's pretty easy to go out there right now." 
  • "Man, was I pumped. When I was getting into second, I was like, 'Oh, Maik is going to score. This is great.' Of course, the helmet came off, too. That was going to happen no matter what." -- Joseph, on Franco scoring from first base on his double to left-center field in the eighth.
  • Cody Asche snapped an 0-for-26 slump with a single to right field in the fifth inning. It was the Phillies' longest hitless streak since Ryan Howard went 0-for-35 last season.
  • Pinch-hitting for Fernando Rodney with two outs in the eighth, Ichiro Suzuki grounded out weakly to pitcher Hector Neris. Ichiro still sits at 2,996 career hits and needs just four more to become the 30th player in MLB history with 3,000.
  • The Phillies announced Rule 5 Draft pick Daniel Stumpf has been returned to the Royals' organization. The Phillies designated Stumpf for assignment last week. He sandwiched a 10.80 ERA in seven appearances with an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a steroid designed by East Germany in the 1960s.
Right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (6-11, 3.98 ERA) pitches the second of a three-game series at 7:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday against the Marlins at Marlins Park. He had a 3.30 ERA through July 4, but he is 0-2 with an 8.27 ERA in his last three starts. Eickhoff thought he did not throw his curveball enough in his last outing last week against the Marlins, so it will be interesting to see if he goes to his "out" pitch more frequently this time.


Rising Stock – Phillies general manager Matt Klentak will want to keep his cell phone charger nearby. Klentak should be getting plenty of calls, texts and emails in the next few days about Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, who pitched another gem on Monday night in a 4-0 victory over the Marlins at Marlins Park. Hellickson, who is the Phillies' player most likely to be traded before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline, allowed just one hit and one walk and struck out one in six scoreless innings. He has permitted just one run in 14 innings in his last two starts, both of which came against the Marlins. "He's not going anywhere," Phillies catcher Cameron Rupp bellowed afterward in the visitors' clubhouse. "I hope not," Hellickson added. But Hellickson might be pitching too well to stay. He has a 2.20 ERA in his last seven starts, and contending teams could use him. "I feel really good," Hellickson said. "I think the [All-Star] break really helped. I was feeling really good, feeling strong and like I said, the ball's down and not missing too many spots right now." Ironically, the Marlins have been one of Hellickson's top pursuers. What makes their chase particularly ironic is the Marlins fell into a tie with the Mets for the second National League Wild Card spot. If they miss the postseason by a game or two, they might regret not pulling the trigger earlier on Hellickson, if they do so at all. But it isn't like the Marlins are the only team interested. The Orioles, Blue Jays, Giants and Pirates were among a handful of teams that had scouts in attendance. "It doesn't bother me," Hellickson said about his name constantly circulating in trade rumors. "Like I told you before, once I'm in this locker room -- obviously you still see it on TV and stuff -- my focus was on helping us win today. Now, it's on to the next start, so I definitely, like I told you guys, I see it and read about it, but it's been like this for a few years now, so it's pretty easy to go out there right now." Hellickson is a free agent following the season and is unlikely to be re-signed, which is why the Phillies are likely to trade him. But they have also said publicly they will not give anybody away. If Hellickson is going to help a contender, even for a couple of months, the Phillies want something of value in return. "At this point, I don't want to lose him," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I wish he could stay here. He's that solid for us. He's been like that the whole year." But other teams are seeing that, too. And with the Trade Deadline less than a week away, teams short on starting pitching might get the itch to finally strike a deal.

Blanco Lands On DL – J.P. Crawford's time has not come yet. The Phillies placed utility infielder Andres Blanco on the 15-day disabled list on Monday because of a broken left index finger. He is scheduled to have surgery on Wednesday and is expected to miss at least a month. The team recalled Triple-A Lehigh Valley infielder Taylor Featherston to take Blanco's spot on the 25-man roster. It makes sense that the Phillies replaced a utility infielder with a utility infielder, but the Phillies also could have promoted Crawford, who MLBPipeline.com ranks as the third-best prospect in baseball. Crawford could be the Phillies' Opening Day shortstop in 2017, so he would be expected to play every day, which would move Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez into a utility role. But it appears Crawford's name never came up in conversations. "None," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said about whether Crawford got any consideration. "No talk about him." The Phillies promoted Crawford from Double-A Reading to Triple-A Lehigh Valley on May 20. He started very slowly, but he has hit .320 with seven doubles, one triple, three home runs, 21 RBIs and an .817 OPS in his past 38 games. He has walked 14 times and struck out 22 times. It will be surprising if Crawford is not promoted at some point this season, particularly once rosters expand in September. But in the meantime, Featherston will try to fill the void left by Blanco. It will not be easy. Blanco is not only versatile defensively, but he can hit, too. He batted .271 with a .767 OPS in 168 plate appearances. Featherston hit .162 with a .459 OPS in 169 plate appearances last season with the Angels. "That's a shame," Mackanin said about Blanco, who broke the finger on Sunday in Pittsburgh when Gregory Polanco's spikes hit it at third base. "He was one of our best players." The Phillies promoted second baseman Scott Kingery from Class A Clearwater to Double-A Reading and promoted second baseman Jesmuel Valentin from Reading to Lehigh Valley. The Phillies selected Kingery in the second round of the 2015 Draft. He hit .293 with a .770 OPS in 420 plate appearances with the Treshers. Valentin batted .276 with a .745 OPS in 388 plate appearances for Reading. The Phillies acquired him and right-hander Victor Arano from the Dodgers in August 2014 for Roberto Hernandez.

Altherr Set To Return – Phillies outfielder Aaron Altherr remains on track to rejoin the Phillies on Thursday. The team announced on Monday that Altherr had his rehab assignment transferred to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Altherr tore a tendon in his left wrist in March, and the Phillies are hoping to give him a good look over the final two months of the season as they assess their outfield situation for 2017 and beyond. "It's easier to get a look at a guy for two months than a September callup," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "You look at Tommy Joseph, how he started so quickly and then all of a sudden he faded. But then he made adjustments and came back. That's the important thing to see. Anybody can get off to a hot start and fade and never do anything the rest of his season. Two months is a good indication of where he may fit into for next year." But where will Altherr play? Odubel Herrera is locked into center field. Cody Asche has been getting the bulk of playing time in left field lately, while Peter Bourjos has been playing in right field. But Asche entered Monday's 4-0 win over the Marlins at Marlins Park hitless in his last 25 at-bats. And Bourjos, who appeared to be a non-waiver Trade Deadline candidate, has been in a slump. He has hit .140 (7-for-50) with a .370 OPS over his last 12 games after batting .447 (34-for-76) with a 1.218 OPS in 24 games from June 12-July 7. "I don't know why, but he's missing good pitches to hit," Mackanin said about Asche. "He's getting a lot of good pitches to hit, and he's fouling them off. He's not hitting them. He has to start hitting. With Altherr in the picture, that's going to make it tougher for everybody to play. [Tyler Goeddel] hasn't been playing much. Asche was playing quite a bit because he was swinging the bat so well. Bourjos was hitting first, but he's not hitting. So here we go. We're trying to find out as much as we can about Altherr. Everybody competes. It's a competition for jobs."

Today In Phils History – During a homeplate collision in 1911, where he held on to the ball to prevent the double steal, Catcher/Manager Red Dooin suffered a broken leg. In 1948, Eddie Sawyer was hired as manager replacing Dusty Cooke. Milt Thompson, Von Hayes, and Mike Schmidt hit back to back to back home runs against Atlanta in 1987. The following year, Mike Schmidt appeared in his 2,155th game at 3B setting a new NL record. The Phillies bid farewell to Curt Schilling on this day in 2000 receiving 4 players in return from Arizona for the ace. In his MLB debut, future Phillie John Lannan hit Chase Utley breaking his hand and hit the next batter, Ryan Howard, making him only the 5th player in MLB history to have been ejected from his debut. 5 years ago, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley hit homeruns in the same game for the 40th time in their careers breaking the record previously held by Mike Scshmidt and Greg Luzinski.

The Phillies are currently 46-55 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 50-53-0 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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