Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Phils Falter Against Fish As Ichiro Moves One Hit Closer

GAME RECAP: Fish Blank Phils 5-0

Giancarlo Stanton woke up a sluggish Miami offense with two RBIs on Tuesday night, and Ichiro Suzuki energized an eighth-inning rally while also moving closer to 3,000 Major League hits. Stanton's power and Ichiro's timely single provided all the support Tom Koehler needed as the Marlins defeated the Phillies, 5-0, at Marlins Park. After being shut out in consecutive games, the Marlins had gone 24 straight innings without a run before Martin Prado doubled in the sixth and scored on Stanton's two-out single. The Marlins broke the game open with four runs in the eighth inning, with Ichiro's single to left off Andrew Bailey putting the rally in motion. It was Ichiro's 2,997th career Major League hit. "I feel like five out of the last six games against them have been exactly the same game, pretty much," Stanton said. "We're the ones on top this time." Koehler, facing the Phillies twice in five days, worked six shutout innings, scattering three hits and striking out five. In his two straight starts, he has given up three runs (one earned) in 14 frames. Miami needed a strong start because Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff permitted just one run on five hits while striking out eight in seven innings. "It's amazing what attacking and being aggressive will do for your game," Eickhoff said. The Phillies advanced a runner as far as second in the fourth and sixth innings, but Koehler got out of both jams.

  • The Phillies entered the All-Star break seeing some progress offensively, but life has not been the same since they returned. The Phillies picked up just four hits as they were handed their fifth shutout loss of the season. They are averaging just 2.75 runs per game in their last 12. "Poor plate discipline, poor plate discipline," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Swinging at too may bad pitches. We get ourselves out too often." 
  • Phillies right fielder Peter Bourjos left the game after the first inning when he slammed into the right-field wall to make a catch, robbing Ichiro of a hit. The Phillies said Bourjos injured his right shoulder, but they offered no further details. The injury is noteworthy because the Phillies have been trying to trade him before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. "I just kind of jammed it into the wall," Bourjos said. "There was no fracture or anything, so that's good news. Hopefully it's not too long. It's just more sore and stiff right now. I think if I get a few days out, hopefully it's doing better." 
  • Expect Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph to be back in the lineup on Wednesday. He went 0-for-2 after replacing Ryan Howard, who started on Tuesday and struck out in both of his at-bats.
  • Ichiro is closing in on history. Ichiro was making his first start since last Thursday, when he went 2-for-5 in Philadelphia. The iconic outfielder is now three hits shy of becoming the 30th player in Major League history to reach 3,000. In the eighth inning, Ichiro actually had a chance for a second hit, but he flied out to left against Severino Gonzalez, finishing the game 1-for-5. In the first inning, Ichiro nearly cleared the wall in right, but Bourjos made a catch while crashing into the wall. Statcast™ projected the drive at 394 feet with an exit velocity of 100 mph. Ichiro is not expected to start on Wednesday.
  • The Marlins' offense has been struggling this week, but it entered Tuesday first in the NL with 929 hits. Only the Red Sox (1,000) had more in the Majors.

Phillies rookie Zach Eflin has been one of the hottest pitchers on the planet since his big league debut on June 14. Eflin (3-3, 3.40 ERA) faces Marlins left-hander Adam Conley (6-5, 3.58 ERA) at 12:10 p.m. ET in Wednesday's series finale at Marlins Park. Eflin is 3-2 with a 2.08 ERA in seven starts, including a complete-game shutout his last time out, since he allowed nine runs (eight earned) in just 2 2/3 innings in his debut in Toronto. He has the seventh-best ERA in the Majors out of 85 qualified pitchers since June 15. Conley held the Phillies to just one earned run in six innings in mid-May at Citizens Bank Park. He hopes to pitch well as the Marlins entered Tuesday tied with the Mets for the second National League Wild Card spot.


Phillies Lacking Discipline – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin had little to say on Tuesday night at Marlins Park. Mackanin praised Jerad Eickhoff, who pitched splendidly in a 5-0 loss to the Marlins. The right-hander allowed one run on five hits and struck out eight in seven innings. "I'm real happy about that," Mackanin said. "That's about all I'm happy about." Mackanin's biggest beef? "Poor plate discipline, poor plate discipline," Mackanin said. "Swinging at too many bad pitches. We get ourselves out too often." The Phillies managed just four hits and one walk on Tuesday. They struck out 10 times. They have hit just .208 and averaged just 2.75 runs per game in 12 contests since the All-Star break. They have walked 28 times and struck out 112 times during that stretch. Philadelphia might activate outfielder Aaron Altherr on Thursday, which could help. They also could promote top prospects J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams before the end of the season, although it is unrealistic to expect them to carry the load. Looking beyond this season, it is unlikely the Phillies can improve their offense before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, unless they get creative and trade one of their more attractive, controllable talents on the roster. MLB Network's Jon Paul Morosi reported earlier this week that the Rangers have interest in Vince Velasquez, who was the key piece in the Ken Giles trade in December. Velasquez, who is 8-2 with a 3.34 ERA, figures to be an important part of the Phillies' future, so it goes without saying the organization would have to be overwhelmed to even think about trading him. That said, a talent like Velasquez could possibly acquire a bat to help the lineup. If only the Phillies feel what they felt before the All-Star break. They averaged 5.6 runs per game in 19 contests before the break. "It's almost like it was probably bad timing for that All-Star break," said Phillies right fielder Peter Bourjos, who left the game in the first inning with an injured right shoulder. "Everything was rolling, we were swinging the bats really well. Everyone looked comfortable in the box and feeling good, and it's tough right now. You can see what was there with the offense. I think it's going to come back. We just need to get back into the rhythm that we had, and everything's going to be all right."

Impressive Catch With A Penalty – The Phillies have been looking to trade right fielder Peter Bourjos before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. A deal might be a moot point after he left Tuesday's 5-0 loss to the Marlins in the first inning with a right shoulder injury. Bourjos crashed into the right-field wall, robbing Ichiro Suzuki of a hit. Bourjos said Wednesday morning that the shoulder remains sore, although it is no better or worse than Tuesday night. Asked if he can avoid a stint on the 15-day disabled list, he said he did not know. Bourjos is a free agent after the season, and the Phillies are expected to activate outfielder Aaron Altherr from the disabled list on Thursday. Trading Bourjos would have created more playing time for Altherr and possibly even Triple-A outfielder Nick Williams sometime later this season. But even if the Phillies can't trade Bourjos this month, he should be a candidate to be moved before the Aug. 31 waiver Trade Deadline. Bourjos is hitting .253 with 15 doubles, five triples, four home runs, 20 RBIs and a .674 OPS in 303 plate appearances.

One Hit Closer – With a flick of his bat, Ichiro Suzuki moved three hits away from a major milestone, and in the context of Tuesday night, his single also brought Marlins Park to life and helped inspire Miami's 5-0 win over the Phillies. Leading off the eighth inning, Ichiro sliced a pitch to left off right-hander Andrew Bailey as he inched closer to 3,000 for his Major League career. The hit energized a four-run inning that broke the game open. "It livened the place up a lot with that hit," right fielder Giancarlo Stanton said. "It was definitely a big hit for us." Ichiro stole second base and scored on Stanton's double. The Marlins carried a 1-0 lead into the inning before gaining some breathing room. "He's had a lot of huge hits for us," manager Don Mattingly said. "He's given us what we've needed." Until the eighth, Ichiro had been frustrated on the night, going 0-for-3 against starter Jerad Eickhoff, including a long flyout to right field to open the first. Ichiro had been in an 0-for-7 rut before his single. The fly ball in the first inning was a projected by Statcast™ at 394 feet with an exit velocity of 100 mph. It almost had home run distance, but right fielder Peter Bourjos ran it down before crashing into the wall. Bourjos also robbed Ichiro of extra bases last week at Philadelphia. But on Tuesday's, Bourjos exited with a right shoulder injury. After Ichiro's single in the eighth, the hit counter switched to 2,997. With the building buzzing as the Marlins scored four times, Ichiro actually had a second at-bat in the frame, but he flied out to left against Severino Gonzalez. As he has closed in on 3,000, Ichiro has received loud ovations every time he has been introduced. Getting the nod in center field in place of All-Star Marcell Ozuna, Ichiro made his first start since last Thursday in Philadelphia, when he went 2-for-5. "We wanted to give guys breathers," Mattingly said. "Him to be able to get Ozuna off his feet, and hopefully get a little work, and with a 12 o'clock game [Wednesday], that gets him rested." The Marlins wrap up their series with the Phillies at 12:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday, and Ichiro is not expected to start. The hope is to get him in the lineup at some point during the four-game series that begins on Thursday against the Cardinals. In the first four games of the Marlins' 10-game homestand, Ichiro made four straight pinch-hit appearances and didn't log a hit. Ichiro entered the season 65 hits shy of 3,000, and he is closing in on becoming the 30th player in Major League history to reach the milestone. "This isn't a guy we're putting in there for no reason," Mattingly said. "When Ich has been playing, he's been in any type of big situation. When he's not in the lineup, he's usually in there with a guy in scoring position or the game on the line. "We're trying to hold him for those spots. No matter if it's a lefty or righty, we like Ich up. This is not a guy who is just treading his way to 3,000. This guy has been helping us, big time."

Perseverance Pays Off – With an eighth-inning single against the Phillies on Tuesday night at Marlins Park, Ichiro Suzuki crept three hits away from a place where only 29 Major Leaguers before him have gone: the 3,000-hit plateau. No one knows better how rare and tough it is to get there than Marlins manager Don Mattingly. His playing career with the Yankees petered out at 34 because of a bad back and he finished with 2,153 hits. Mattingly had three seasons with more than 200 hits and seven with no less than 184. But he couldn't sustain that pace to get to 3,000, and he retired after 14 seasons. "Woulda, coulda, shoulda," Mattingly said after his Marlins defeated the Phils, 5-0. "I'm never going to get there." Ichiro will, eventually. He was in the starting lineup on Tuesday for the first time in five games and went 1-for-5. But Ichiro won't start on Wednesday in the finale of the three-game series against the Phillies, his manager said. Ichiro could have had another hit, but Phils right fielder Peter Bourjos robbed him by banging into the right-field wall to grab a searing line drive in the first inning. Bourjos injured his right shoulder and had to leave the game for all his troubles. Mattingly thought center fielder Marcell Ozuna needed a day off, so he turned on the Ichiro switch, leading him off and putting him in center. Had Giancarlo Stanton needed a blow on Wednesday, Ichiro might have subbed for him in right. Stanton went 2-for-4 with a booming ground-rule double and a pair of RBIs. Mattingly intends to play Ozuna and stay with the hot bat of Stanton on Wednesday, relegating Ichiro again to the bench. The Cardinals come in for a four-game series on Thursday night, and Mattingly said he'll look at the matchups and give Ichiro at least another start, perhaps two, disappointing the scores of Japanese reporters here to follow Ichiro in his quest for the big hit. "That's what we've had to do with [Ichiro]," Mattingly said. "We have to make sure he continues to do his work and it's been easy to put him in there. That's been the toughest thing with this. Look at our outfield. It's been one of the best in the league." It's an unorthodox way to go about getting to 3,000 and really, there's no blueprint for it. The 3,000-hit mark has been reached just three times since 2007, and each time it was done by a fading star still playing almost every day. Craig Biggio did it for the Astros with a single in 2007. Derek Jeter followed in 2011 and Alex Rodriguez last season. Both of them were with the Yankees, and both did it with a home run. Consider, too, that all three guys collected their hits in careers of 20 years or longer. Ichiro didn't get to the Major Leagues from Japan until he was 27 and he has collected all these hits in just 16 big league seasons. Ichiro had 10 seasons in a row of 200 hits or more from 2001-10, breaking the single-season record with 262 in '04. "Plus he threw up something like 1,200 [1,278 in Japan] before he even got here," Mattingly said. "This is not a regular player. Ich is an incredible guy. I feel very fortunate to have him this year on this club. He's a great example for our players. You have to respect every way he goes about his business. He's been a real joy." To underscore just how rare it is to collect 3,000 hits, there's not a big group coming behind Ichiro. Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre is next up at 2,868. He is only 37, in his 19th season and still has plenty of time. Behind Beltre is Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols, who at 36, is at 2,760. Behind Pujols is Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran at 2,558. At 39, the switch-hitter seems beyond reach at this juncture of his 19-year career. The way it's going, the 3,000-hit player eventually may become as extinct as the 300-win pitcher. And with Bartolo Colon at 226, the closest active pitcher to that mark at 43, it's going to be a long time before we get one of those again. "All the guys to me who get to 3,000 are guys who love playing and take care of themselves over a long period of time," Mattingly said. "It takes a long time to get there. So you have to play a long time. You have to have a little bit of luck with injuries, but usually that luck comes from those guys taking care of themselves." Ichiro is the epitome of a guy who takes care of himself and has never had a serious injury. And now he's on the brink of the promised land, slowly counting the days, the at-bats and the hits until he gets there.

Today In Phils History – Phillies players were shocked (but shouldn’t have been based on their record) in 1943 when 42 year old Brooklyn pitcher Freddie Fitzsimmons is named manager replacing Bucky Harris forcing owner William Cox to issue an apology to the departing skipper. In 1950, Del Ennis recorded 7 RBI in the 7th and 8th innings against the cubs leading the Phillies to victory. Jim Bunning was outdueled by Sandy Koufax by a score of 2-1 in 1966 as the two aces combined for 28 strikeouts. 5 years later, catcher Bobby Pfeil hit the only 2 homeruns of his career against Houston. 3 years ago, former Philadelphia Daily News writer Paul Hagan received the Spink award from the MLB Hall of Fame.

The Phillies are currently 46-56 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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