Sunday, July 10, 2016

Rockies Rookie Rocks Phillies

GAME RECAP: Rockies Rock Phillies 8-3

Rockies rookie left-hander Tyler Anderson solved his run-support problem Saturday night. Anderson's first career home run, a two-run shot, tied the game in the fifth, and his teammates helped him earn his first career win by igniting for a six-run sixth en route to an 8-3 victory over the Phillies. Seven of the first eight Rockies batters reached base in the sixth, highlighted by Mark Reynolds' bases-loaded walk and Tony Wolters' bases-clearing triple. Wolters' hit chased Phillies starter Jerad Eickhoff, but not before he was tagged for eight runs on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings. As the run total grew, a member of the family of hawks that nests high above the Coors Field scoreboard zoomed in and out of the press box. Then, it perched atop the box and took in the ballgame. Anderson allowed two runs on nine hits over six frames and struck out six while walking none. Tommy Joseph hit his second home run of the series on a 4-for-4 night, and Carlos Ruiz knocked in a run on a single. Anderson had received only 2.50 runs of support per game coming into the game, which was fifth-lowest among starters with at least 20 innings.

  • Eickhoff had cruised through 4 ⅔ scoreless innings before Wolters singled and Anderson homered. But it got much worse for Eickhoff in the sixth. He allowed six of seven batters to reach base as the Rockies scored six runs in the inning. Eickhoff allowed a career-high eight runs in 5 ⅓ innings to finish the half at 6-10 with a 3.80 ERA.
  • Phillies All-Star outfielder Odubel Herrera will likely return to the lineup Sunday after hitting a foul ball off his right foot on Friday. Between that, facing a lefty in Tyler Anderson and starting the series 0-for-10, Herrera did not start Saturday.
  • The Phillies will activate left-handed reliever Daniel Stumpf on Sunday after he is done serving an 80-game suspension for taking a performance-enhancing drug. Stumpf, a Rule 5 Draft pick, allowed three runs in three appearances over two-thirds of an inning this season.
  • Chatwood has walked at least three batters in each of his past five starts. That raised his walk rate from 6.2 percent to 8.9 percent.

The Phillies and Rockies will close the first half of the season Sunday afternoon with an interesting matchup of two young right-handers on the mound: Zach Eflin and Tyler Chatwood. Eflin, an integral piece of the Jimmy Rollins trade, has been excellent for the Phillies after his rocky first start. Eflin has allowed only six earned runs in 26 2/3 innings after allowing nine runs in 2 2/3 innings in his debut at Toronto. He is coming off a complete-game gem, holding the Braves to one run and six hits on 92 pitches Tuesday. Chatwood has a career-low 3.08 ERA this season, including a 1.30 mark on the road, which is third-best among qualified pitchers. In his first start off the 15-day disabled list (mid-back strain) his last time out, he threw five strong innings, limiting the Giants to two runs (one earned) on three hits with four strikeouts and four walks.


Scheduled Return – Aaron Nola is ready to rejoin the Phillies' rotation. He will start July 18 against the Marlins at Citizens Bank Park, which will be his first since the Phillies skipped his turn in the rotation following a rough five-start stretch. The Phillies said they wanted Nola to clear his mind before the second half. Nola, who threw two innings in a simulated game Saturday at Coors Field, believes the benefits will be more physical than mental. "I don't really think it's a mental break," he said. "Mentally, I feel fine. I feel like the past month I struggled. The ball was up. My command wasn't where it should be. I wasn't getting ahead of guys, and they make you pay for it. I think that's main part. "My body is going to be a lot healthier. My arm is going to be a lot healthier. I feel great." Nola, 23, had been a legitimate candidate to make the National League All-Star team before he went 0-4 with a 13.50 ERA in his last five starts. Assuming he regains his trademark command and returns to form, the Phillies' rotation should be formidable the final two-plus months of the season with Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Zach Eflin and Jeremy Hellickson, if he is not traded before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline. But the four youngest pitchers in the rotation have given the Phillies reasons to be optimistic about the future. Nola likes the Phillies' prospects with this rotation, too. "I love watching those guys," Nola said. "They're such big-time competitors. Just the way they pitch. Eickhoff is probably one of the hardest competitors I've played with. The guy is just locked in all the time."

Futures Game Representation – The 2016 season hasn't gone the way Ricardo Pinto planned. In his first season at Double-A, he has posted career highs in ERA, WHIP and home runs per nine innings. But being named one of two Phillies prospects to the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game (live on MLB Network and Sunday at 7 p.m. ET) has given the 22-year-old right-hander new fuel for the second half. "It's always been a dream of mine," Pinto said through an interpreter. "I want to thank the Philadelphia Phillies staff for helping me out and just giving me everything I have right now. This is something that will just help me keep going." Since being signed out of Venezuela in 2012, the highest ERA that Pinto posted was 3.09 last season at Class A Lakewood. He relied on a fastball-changeup combo that likely could succeed in a big league bullpen right now. But through 17 Double-A starts, that number sits at 4.58. Pinto and the Phillies still have their eyes set on him being a starter. He has spent 2016 expanding his repertoire to also include a curveball and slider. The road to refining those breaking balls has been a bumpy one. Pinto coasted through Class A Advanced, finding he could get away with mistake pitches and still get outs. It has been a different experience at Double-A. "I've noticed the hitters are more mature," Pinto said. "If you throw a mistake, they're going to make you pay. … I've been learning from those mistakes. Sometimes I could get away with those mistakes in High A ball, but here I don't get outs with the mistake pitches." Pinto pitched a career-high 145 1/3 innings last season between Lakewood and High A Clearwater. At 96 1/3 through the first half of 2016, he is on pace to expand on that number as he continues to get stretched out. He is particularly excited to throw one of those innings at Petco Park, though it's not clear if he's more eager to pitch in the Futures Game or explore what the city of San Diego has to offer (he's never been). "I can't wait to be there," Pinto said. "I have a lot of friends who have already told me it's a beautiful city. I can't wait to just walk around all over San Diego."

No Break For You! – Dylan Cozens has a busy week ahead of him. He will first fly from Reading to San Diego for the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game on Sunday (live on MLB Network and at 7 p.m. ET). From there, Cozens heads to Akron, Ohio, where he will play in the Eastern League All-Star Game on Wednesday. The Reading Fightin' Phillies play in Trenton, N.J., the next night. So much for a midseason break. Of course, all this comes as a result of being the most prolific power hitter in the Minor Leagues this season. His 24 home runs trail only teammate Rhys Hoskins' 25, but Cozens' .590 slugging percentage is 18 points higher than that of Hoskins, who hits behind Cozens in the Reading lineup. "Most of the time, I'm in the on-deck circle trying to get ready for my at-bat," Hoskins said. "But sometimes I'll catch myself just watching him." Cozens, however, will be challenged to put that power on display in pitcher-friendly Petco Park in San Diego. Using the winds blowing off the Schuylkill River to his advantage at Reading's FirstEnergy Stadium, Cozens has hit all but four of his dingers at home. His slugging percentage drops from an unreal .802 in Reading to .383 on the road. Those splits, plus those versus righties (.313/.397/.653) compared to lefties (.186/.284/.357), could concern Phillies fans, but Cozens' mature approach at the plate should temper those fears. Teammates lauded not only his knowledge of the strike zone but the way he adjusted to Double-A hurlers beginning to pitch around him. Although Cozens is still striking out in nearly one-third of his at-bats (108 K's in 329 ABs), he has also drawn 47 walks. That ranks second in the Eastern League only to Indians' No. 1 prospect Bradley Zimmer. Cozens cut down on the K's last season at High A Clearwater, whiffing only once in about every 4.5 at-bats. That was a direct result of the organization's efforts to limit the second-rounder's strikeouts since drafting him in 2012. In turn, it resulted in far fewer home runs. Cozens slugged only eight across three levels in 2015, though he did maintain his gap power, recording 25 two-baggers. Having been unleashed in a hitter's park in 2016, Cozens already has one more double and 16 additional dingers than last season -- in 91 fewer at-bats.

The Bowa Story – Larry Bowa was an overachiever. He was cut from his high school baseball team. He was undrafted. However, the late Eddie Bockman saw Bowa play and liked what he saw so much that he took his own video and drove to Los Angeles, where the 1965 World Series was being played. Using a bed sheet for a screen on the hotel room wall, Bockman showed then Phillies' general manager Paul Owens the kid he wanted to sign. Nobody -- including Bockman -- could ever have imagined the success Bowa would eventually enjoy in the big leagues. He spent 16 years in the Majors and was a five-time National League All-Star. With this year's All-Star Game coming up on Tuesday night, Bowa is featured in this week's Q&A: Not the strongest amateur resume for a potential big leaguer? Bowa: I didn't make my high school team. I got cut every year, so I was playing the summer league. Then the junior college coach came out and saw me playing in the summer league. He said, "Will you come out for the junior college team?" I said, "I couldn't even make my high school team." He says, "I'm going to give you an opportunity to play." I went out and I made it, and I was All-Conference two years in a row, and that's where Eddie Bockman saw me. Was Bockman sold on you as a Major Leaguer? Bowa: He told Paul Owens, "This guy can run and throw." He said, "I don't know if he's going to hit. He can field." He says, "Worse scenario is he's an organization guy. You keep him in the big leagues -- I mean you keep him in the organization as a coach at the end or a manager of the team, but I think it's worth a gamble." That's how it started, basically. Then he showed Owens the homemade movie? Bowa: Pope (Owens' nickname) said, "Man, this guy really runs fast." Eddie said, "Oh, he can run. He can do everything, but I don't know if he's going to hit." They signed me. My first four years at (Class) A and Double-A, I hit right-handed. I had made the (big league) team in 1969. Bob Skinner was the manager. He called me in and he says, "Here's the option." He says, "You can make this team this year as a utility player, or you can go to Eugene, Oregon, learn how to switch-hit, and there's a chance you could be an everyday player." I said, "I don't want to be a utility player." I went to Eugene, Oregon. Literally had to learn how to switch-hit at Triple-A. I think I ended up hitting .270 or something. Then, I went to instructional league the next year and kept hitting left-handed. Then, 1970 was my first year in the big leagues. I basically had to learn how to hit left-handed at the big-league level. If I had one regret, I wish my dad would have taught me to switch-hit when I was in Little League, not wait so long. [My dad] played pro ball, he managed Triple-A. He played as high as Triple-A, so I was around a bat and ball since I was five or six years old. He was always in the house, and he was there for me, taking me out. He worked three jobs, and on weekends he'd take me out to Land Park, which is in Sacramento, and he'd hit me grounders and teach me how to bunt. He says, "You're never going to be a power hitter. You got to do all the little things." I look back at all that and all that work it really paid off. And from that beginning comes an All-Star shortstop? Bowa: Yeah. It was unbelievable, because I had just thought, "If I can get a day in the big leagues." Then I said a month. Then I said a year. To start in those three All-Star Games -- and to have actually one of them played in Philly in '76, it was a tremendous honor. That first one, I walk in the clubhouse, and it's "Oh my God. What am I doing here? You see all those stars that you actually watched on TV when you were in the Minor Leagues. And your All-Star highlight? Bowa: It was like, "Man there's no way I'm here." Almost like let me pinch myself. I look around and I'm going, "Eh I don't hit any homeruns, what am I doing in this locker room?" I had to do all that stuff, because I knew if I didn't move a runner, I knew if there was a hit-and-run on and I swung through the pitch, I knew if I went out for cutoff and missed it, I knew there's a chance I'd be in the Minor Leagues. Even making five All-Star teams, I went to Spring Training thinking someone's going to take my job. Not that I didn't believe in my ability, but I knew that people coming up knew that I didn't hit home runs, and they'd say, "I can take this guys job." I had to do all those little things. You never figured you had it made? Bowa: My approach was, they're looking for somebody to hit 20 home runs and maybe run a little bit faster. I stole like [318] some bases, but most of my bases I stole, they weren't with a score of 6-1 -- they meant something. I had to learn how to steal bases. I knew I could run, but I had to learn how to read pitchers. We didn't have the information they have now.

Today In Phils History – In 1911, Sherry Magee showed his temper when, after being called out on a high strike, he tossed his bat, got thrown out of the game, and punched the umpire leading to a 36 game suspension and $200 fine. Chuck Klein tied the MLB record for homeruns in a single game when he hit 4 against the Pirates in 1936. In 1972, GM Paul Owens fired Frank Lucchesi and took over as manager despite his limited experience. Mike Schmidt tied Dick Allen’s team record when he hit a homerun in his 5th consecutive game on this day in 1979. Del Unser also set a team record by going deep in his 3rd consecutive pinch hit appearance. 5 years later, Paul Owens led the NL squad to a victory over the AL. in 2006, Ryan Howard won the All Star Homerun Derby. 4 years later, Jimmy Rollins drove in Carlos Ruiz for a walk off win against the Reds making it the third walk off win for the Phillies in as many nights. The following season, the Phillies outfield of Raul Ibanez (6), John Mayberry Jr. (4), and Domonic Brown (2) drove in a combined 12 runs which was the most for a Phillies outfield since 1923.

The Phillies are currently 41-48 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 40-47-0 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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