Monday, July 4, 2016

Phillies Take 2nd Straight Series

GAME RECAP: Phillies Stun Royals 7-2

A team like the Phillies could use a series like this as a real confidence booster. They beat the Royals on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, 7-2, to win the three-game series against the defending World Series champions. The rebuilding Phillies have won seven of their last 10 games. They beat the Royals on Sunday behind a solid effort from Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez and home runs from Cameron RuppCody Asche and Maikel Franco. "We played really well in San Francisco, really well in Arizona and now really well here," Rupp said. "We've kind of found our groove working on all cylinders. Defensively, offensively and pitching has all been better. We're playing well and having fun." Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura left the game in the third inning because of a sprained right ankle. He allowed four hits and four runs in 2 2/3 innings. Shortstop Alcides Escobar extended his hitting streak to 14 games. Both Ventura and Royals manager Ned Yost said it was too early to tell if Ventura would be able to make his next start. Ventura said after the game he would know in the next couple of days. "I thought he didn't make a good pitch on the three-run homer," Yost said. "He elevated it. He came back out in the second inning, and that was better. But then he twisted his ankle and had trouble pushing off in the third inning. Can't really judge much off today."

  • Velasquez gave the Phillies a scare in the first inning, when manager Pete Mackanin, pitching coach Bob McClure and an athletic trainer visited the mound after just five pitches. Velasquez's fastball had hit just 90 mph, which is alarming. But he remained in the game and allowed just five hits, two runs, two walks and struck out seven in six innings. Velasquez's four-seamer improved but averaged just 92.1 mph after it averaged 95.7 mph in his previous start in Arizona. "My arm was just dragging a little bit," Velasquez said. "I mean, it's coming to the first half of the season, and I also had the injury that I had. And then you're next question is going to be, 'You hit 97 in Arizona, so what happened [today]?' Well, things happen. Everyone has dead arm at some point. But that's the game of baseball. You've got to pitch." 
  • The heart of the Phillies' lineup did damage. Asche, Franco and Rupp went a combined 6-for-12 with three home runs and six RBIs. Rupp crushed a 98-mph fastball from Ventura to right field for a three-run homer in the first inning to give the Phillies a 3-0 lead, Asche hit a solo homer to right in the third to make it 4-0 and Franco ripped a solo homer to left-center field in the eighth to make it 6-2. "I'm tempted to play him a lot more," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said about Rupp. "That ball he hit to right field was about neck-high, which was nice. He's been concentrating on not missing fastballs up in the zone, which are home run pitches for him, by trying to stay on top of those pitches. It certainly looked like he did that today." 
  • "I don't know exactly what's happened. I just know we had it in us. I always felt, even for the first two months, that we were a better hitting team than it showed, and it was kind of an enigma as to why we weren't hitting better. It just took a little time. Now, the guys as a group are starting to hit. It helps when you've got a guy like [Peter] Bourjos, who came out of nowhere up to .270. That's an unbelievable story in itself. I think the other players feed off things like that. You know, it's like, 'Well I can do it, too.' I know that's not a scientific answer, but it's the best I can do." -- Mackanin, on the Phillies' sudden offensive surge.
  • Velasquez won his seventh game, despite spending half of June on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right biceps. Incredibly, he already surpassed the Phillies' 2015 wins leaders. Cole Hamels, Ken Giles, Aaron Nola and Aaron Harang each finished the season with six wins.
  • The Royals challenged a safe call in the fourth inning when Ryan Howard attempted to advance from first to third on a bloop single to left. The original call implied that third baseman Cheslor Cuthbert missed tagging Howard. But after two minutes and 29 seconds, the call was overturned as replays showed Cuthbert did make the tag on Howard's shoulder.
  • The Phillies activated right-hander Dalier Hinojosa from the 15-day disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Hinojosa has been on the DL since April 29 because of a bruised right hand.
  • Peter Bourjos' two hits on Saturday extended his hitting streak to 11 games, matching Odubel Herrera for the longest by a Phillies player this season.
  • Despite being the two lowest-scoring teams in baseball, both the Braves and Phillies have been on offensive tears of late -- at least in relative terms. Entering play Sunday, Atlanta was averaging 4.52 runs a game over its last 19 and Philadelphia 5.73 over its last 11. On the season, the Braves and Phillies are averaging 3.43 and 3.46 runs per game, respectively.
  • A.J. Pierzynski is one double away from the 400th of his career. He would become just the fourth catcher in Major League history to notch 400 two-baggers, joining Ivan Rodriguez (572), Ted Simmons (483) and Carlton Fisk (421).
  • Freddie Freeman leads Major League Baseball over his last 55 games in line-drive percentage. His 33.3 percent is best among 210 full-time players and 13 points above the league average of 20.4.

Joel De La Cruz will make his second Major League start as the Braves and Phillies open a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park on Independence Day. The 27-year-old rookie allowed three runs over six innings in his MLB debut against the Indians, taking the loss and striking out one. On Monday, he'll be opposed by Jerad Eickhoff (5-9, 3.38 ERA), who posted a 2.23 ERA in six June starts. The last time the Phillies and Braves met, Philadelphia was still riding high at 25-19. Atlanta took two of three from them, though, and since then the Phils have gone 11-27. Atlanta was already 14 1/2 games back of first at the time, but the Phillies have fallen from two behind the Nationals to 13. The opener will be the conclusion of three days of traveling for the Braves, who played the first two games of their weekend series with the Marlins in Atlanta on Saturday before traveling to Fort Bragg in North Carolina for the finale.


Rupp Overshadowing Ruiz – Cameron Rupp moseyed to his locker late Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, donned a black cowboy hat and smiled. The get-up suited him. "I have a few at home," the native Texan said. "Can't you tell I wear them? It looks good on me." Rupp is looking pretty good in the Phillies' lineup, too. He hit a three-run home run in the first inning in Sunday's 7-2 victory over the Royals, launching a 98-mph fastball up and out of the zone from Royals right-hander Yordano Ventura to right field. The homer helped the Phillies win the three-game series against the defending World Series champions. "I just threw the bat on it, and he provided the power with a 98-mile-per-hour fastball," Rupp said. Rupp is hitting .288 with 16 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 22 RBIs and an .831 OPS in 201 plate appearances. His numbers put him among the best catchers in baseball. He entered the afternoon ranked third among big league catchers in doubles; third in OPS and slugging percentage; fifth in batting average; 10th in hits and tied for 11th in home runs. He posted those numbers, despite ranking 17th among catchers in plate appearances. "I'm tempted to play him a lot more," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "That ball he hit to right field was about neck-high, which was nice. He's been concentrating on not missing fastballs up in the zone, which are home run pitches for him, by trying to stay on top of those pitches. It certainly looked like he did that today." Rupp's season is becoming a compelling one. He entered Spring Training expected to share time with Carlos Ruiz, who purchased the black cowboys hats for the entire team. (They plan to wear them to Colorado on Wednesday.) But Rupp also entered camp knowing the Phillies had two of the better catching prospects in baseball in Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp, and pretty much everybody expected one of them -- not Rupp -- to be the organization's catcher of the future. But that is hardly fait accompli. Phillies fans probably forget, but they screamed for former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick to replace Ruiz with top catching prospect Lou Marson in 2008, when Ruiz posted a forgettable .620 OPS. The Phillies hung with Ruiz, who established himself as one of the better catchers in franchise history. The Phillies traded Marson to Cleveland in July 2009 as part of the Cliff Lee trade. Marson hasn't been in the Majors since 2013, never establishing himself as an everyday catcher. "I'm still trying to establish myself in the big leagues," Rupp said. "Whatever I need to do, that's what I'm trying to do. I want to makes sure people know that I want to belong here. I don't want to be somebody that is a place filler. "At any point in my career, somebody is going to want my job, not just those two. If I end up playing for seven or eight more years, there's going to be somebody else trying to get my job. I take it as, I've got to be me. I've got to play. It doesn't matter how good I've performed. There is motivation, but it's not just because of those two that are down there. They're good ballplayers. Who wouldn't want them on your ball club? But I think at any point it doesn't matter who's down there. I'm still playing for my job every day."

Skipping Next Start – The Phillies hinted they could skip Aaron Nola's final start before the All-Star break, and they confirmed Sunday afternoon that they will. Nola will not pitch Thursday in Colorado. Instead, he will pitch a simulated game and use the time to rest his body and clear his mind. He allowed five runs in five innings Saturday in a 6-2 loss to the Royals, making him 0-4 with a 13.50 ERA in his last five starts. Nola retired the final 10 Royals he faced, striking out six of them, but it wasn't enough to keep him in the rotation. "They talked to me beforehand," Nola said. "I understand the process. I'm still going to get my work in. I'm going to throw a simulated game, simulate a couple innings in Colorado. The main key and the important part is I feel healthy and feel strong right now." The Phillies tried something similar in July 2013, pushing back a Cole Hamels start a couple days to try to clear his mind. Hamels disagreed that he needed a break at the time, although he was 2-11 with a 4.58 ERA. Coincidence or not, Hamels went 6-3 with a 2.68 ERA in his final 16 starts. "If you ask anybody, we all want to be pitching every fifth day," Nola said. "It's what they want to do, and I understand. But hopefully it will help. Any time you get some time off it's good. ... This is my first full season here, and they want to watch me, but I'm still going to go out and try to throw as many innings as I can." Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said they have not decided who will start Thursday, although left-hander Adam Morgan would be an option. He just left the rotation to make room for Vince Velasquez, joining the bullpen as a long man.

Today In Phils History – The Phillies received an interesting win during their inaugural season in 1883 when the team from Providence left after the 7th inning so that they could catch a train to New York giving the Phillies the forfeit victory. In 1892, 2 300 game winners took the mound as the Phillies Tim Keefe faced St. Louis’ Pud Gavin. The Giants George Wiltse nearly had a perfect game against the Phillies in 1908 but had to settle for a 10 inning no hitter when he hit George McQuillen with a pitch in the 9th. In 1967, Clay Dalrymple set a franchise record and tied the NL record when he drew 6 walks during a double header. Not used to hitting homeruns, Tim McCarver had a grand slam taken away in 1976 when he passes Garry Maddox while circling the bases. 3 years later, Steve Carlton threw a 1 hitter against the Mets at home on the same day that the Phillies lost 3 pitchers, Larry Christenson, Dick Ruthven, and Randy Lerch, to a variety of injuries. 10 years later, Dickie Thon broke up the Reds’ Tom Browning's perfect game with a double in the 9th which was followed up by a Steve Jeltz double to break up the shutout.

The Phillies are currently 37-46 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 87-88-0 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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