Saturday, July 9, 2016

Velasquez Solid, Joseph Goes Deep, And Goeddel Saves The Game

GAME RECAP: Phillies Top Rockies 5-3

Tommy Joseph emerged from a recent funk to deliver a three-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning and lift the Phillies over the Rockies, 5-3, at Coors Field on Friday night. Joseph's 455-foot shot came off lefty Jake McGee, who let the two runners he inherited from effective starter Jon Gray and two others score in his fourth appearance since his return from missing three weeks with a left knee injury. Gray fanned eight in 6 1/3 innings. "No doubters, you don't feel them," Joseph said of his homer. McGee, who entered because manager Walt Weiss watched Gray's leadoff four-pitch walk and saw fatigue signs, had increased the use of the slider since coming off the disabled list. But for much of his career he has thrown the fastball around 95 percent of the time. "Most of my career, I've got to stick with my fastball and not get beat with a secondary pitch," McGee said. "My slider, in that situation, lost the game and kind of spoiled Gray's good outing." The Joseph homer made a winner of Phillies starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, who gave up eight hits but held the Rockies to two runs in six innings. The Phillies prevailed on a night when Rockies All-Star right fielder Carlos Gonzalez had three hits, including a double, and Trevor Story drove in two runs.

  • Joseph might be getting his mojo back after struggling since a hot start. His pinch-hit, three-run homer in the seventh was the Phillies' first pinch-hit homer of the season and Joseph's first pinch-hit of his career. He had been 0-for-7 in pinch-hitting opportunities. He is 6-for-12 in his last four games. "To feel like you did something for the team, it feels pretty good," Joseph said.
  • Tyler Goeddel replaced Cody Asche in left field in the eighth inning and it paid off with a game-saving catch. The Rockies had a runner on second with two outs when DJ LeMahieu hit a blooper into shallow left-center field. Goeddel sprinted in from his position and made the diving catch. "I got a good read off the bat," Goeddel said. "I knew if that ball dropped that run would score. I knew I had to make an effort to make a play. When I hit the ground the ball sort of squirted in my glove a little bit. It stayed in there."
  • "I'll take it. Everyone has their ups and downs. You're not going to be perfect all the way through." -- Velasquez, speaking about his first half. He finished 8-2 with a 3.32 ERA.
  • Joseph's homer traveled a projected 455 feet, according to Statcast™. It is the Phillies' longest homer of the season, surpassing Maikel Franco's 449-foot homer, which he hit Monday. It is the Phillies' longest homer since Cameron Rupp's 461-foot long ball on Aug. 24, 2015.
  • The Phillies announced outfielder Aaron Altherr began a rehab assignment Friday with the rookie level Gulf Coast League Phillies. He is recovering from a torn tendon in his left wrist. The team also announced right-hander Andrew Bailey had been activated from the 15-day disabled list. Bailey had been sidelined with a strained left hamstring.
Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff (6-9, 3.30 ERA) makes his final start before the All-Star break on Saturday night at 8:40 p.m. ET against the Rockies at Coors Field. Eickhoff is 4-2 with a 2.25 ERA in his last seven starts.


Rule 5 Dive – Tyler Goeddel is trying to make his mark this season, but the opportunities at times have been scarce. He made the most of his chance Friday night in a 5-3 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field. He pinch-hit in the top of the eighth inning for Phillies left fielder Cody Asche and remained in the game. He then made a lead-saving catch with a runner on second and two outs in the bottom of the inning when Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu hit a blooper into shallow left-center field. Goeddel sprinted from his spot in left to make a spectacular diving catch to end the threat. "I got a good read off the bat," Goeddel said. "I knew if that ball dropped that run would score. I knew I had to make an effort to make a play. When I hit the ground the ball sort of squirted in my glove a little bit. It stayed in there." Not bad for a converted third baseman, who started playing the outfield last year. "I love selling out, making those plays," Goeddel said. "That's the best part of playing the outfield." The Phillies selected Goeddel with the first overall pick in the 2015 Rule 5 Draft. He is hitting .221 with three doubles, three triples, three home runs and 13 RBIs in 59 games, although his playing time has been reduced recently due to the torrid hitting of Peter Bourjos and Asche. "It's been fun, really fun," Goeddel said of his first half. "A learning experience, for sure. At the start of the year I was getting my feet wet. It took a little bit of time, but the more I played, the more I felt comfortable. Any way you can contribute up here is awesome. Whatever my role is I want to help the team win. I think this first half I feel like I've helped out quite a bit. Hopefully I'll continue to improve as the season goes on and continue to make some plays."

Regaining Form – Tommy Joseph never felt it. He crushed a pinch-hit, three-run home run to left field in the seventh inning Friday night in a 5-3 victory over the Rockies at Coors Field. It was the Phillies' first pinch-hit home run of the season, and the first pinch-hit of Joseph's career. "No doubters, you don't feel them," Joseph said. It came at a huge moment of the game. The Phillies' offense had been quiet since arriving in Colorado, but had just scored its first run in the seventh to cut the Rockies' lead to 2-1. Joseph stepped into the batter's box and three pitches later mashed a 1-1 breaking ball against Rockies left-hander Jake McGee a projected 455 feet, according to Statcast™. It is the Phillies' longest homer of the season, surpassing the 448-foot blast Maikel Franco hit Monday at Citizens Bank Park. "Thanks to him," said Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez, who picked up his eighth win of the season. Joseph might be finding his mojo again. He hit .323 (21-for-65) with two doubles, seven home runs, 12 RBIs and a 1.010 OPS in the first 21 games of his big league career. He played so well Phillies manager Pete Mackanin officially put Ryan Howard into a bench role. But since homering twice against the Nationals on June 10, Joseph hit just .114 (8-for-70) with three doubles, one home run, three RBIs and a .325 OPS in 19 games. "It was quite a funk," Joseph said. But following the towering homer Friday, Joseph is hitting .500 (6-for-12) with one double, two home runs, five RBIs and a 1.622 OPS in his last four games. Joseph said adjustments he has made recently have helped. Some helpful words from teammates have been beneficial, too. "Creating movement with the legs," Joseph said. "I got away from that." He is back at it and Friday it might have helped him crush a ball a country mile.

Huge Potential – The Phillies will have one heck of a story if Simon Muzziotti makes the big leagues. They signed the 17-year-old outfielder from Venezuela to a $750,000 bonus Friday. Muzziotti comes to the Phillies in a very unusual way. He was a free agent, despite the fact the Red Sox paid him a $300,000 bonus last summer and despite the fact he hit .317 in 17 games this summer for the Red Sox in the Dominican Summer League. Muzziotti became a free agent again recently only because Major League Baseball penalized the Red Sox for trying to circumvent the rules during the previous international signing period. The Red Sox were not permitted to sign players for more than $300,000 during the 2015-16 signing period because they exceeded their bonus pool in the 2014-15 signing period. But the Red Sox instead made package deals, essentially paying a group of players $300,000 each only to have a few of those players funnel much of their bonus to the most valuable player in the group. Major League Baseball penalized the Red Sox for their actions, which included making the players they signed free agents. Only $450,000 of Muzziotti's bonus counted against the Phillies' signing pool of $5,610,800. They had purposely not spent their entire signing pool just in the event something unexpected came their way. Muzziotti did. One scout told last summer that Muzziotti compared to a young Jacoby Ellsbury. Muzziotti had been clocked at 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash. The Phillies previously agreed to terms with five other international players: right-hander Francisco Morales ($720,000 signing bonus), shortstop Brayan Gonzalez ($900,000), shortstop Nicolas Torres ($665,000), catcher Juan Aparicio ($475,000) and shortstop Jose Tortolero ($450,000).

Lessons Learned – The moment remains embedded in Phillies manager Pete Mackanin's memory. It was May 4, 1980. Mackanin was a bench player with the Twins. He was hitting .231, and at the age of 28, he was battling to stay in the big leagues, where he had appeared in 73 games the three previous seasons -- combined. "I am in the outfield, shagging fly balls, and [manager] Gene [Mauch] walks up and says, 'Pete, when you are trying to move the runner from second to third, a deep fly ball to right-center or center will get it done. Don't sacrifice an at-bat with a ground ball to the right side. "I told him, 'I have to stop hitting .230,' and he says, 'You're going to hit .270, .275 when it's all over. He walks away and I'm thinking, 'Dang, he thinks I can hit. It's little things like that that makes a difference. A guy with his stature in the game believes in me and I start thinking, 'Maybe I am a better hitter.'" Mackanin hit .271 his final 79 games that season, finishing at .266. Another year with the Twins and his big league playing career was over. More than 35 years later, however, Mackanin, 24 days shy of his 65th birthday, is enjoying his first season as a non-interim big league manager, and those moments with Mauch are with him every day. It has helped Mackanin handle the challenges of managing a big league team, especially a young team like the Phillies, where the ups can be way up and the downs way down. This is a team that opened the season 25-19, lost 19 of its next 24 and went into Friday having won 10 of the past 14. Mackanin has a driving desire to win. He can be as frustrated as the next guy when a hit-and-run is missed or an outfielder throws to the wrong base. But he maintains a calm exterior. It's what he learned from Mauch. "Gene would have a meeting when things weren't going well and you were thinking he's going to yell and scream, but it was just the opposite," Mackanin said. "I played for Billy Martin [as a rookie] in Texas, and you hear a lot of stories about Billy. Some of them are true. But with Billy, the only time he would yell and scream at [players] was when we were winning. When we were losing, he was looking for a way to pick everybody up." Over the years, Mackanin had plenty of opportunities to test that method, just not in the big leagues. He coached in the Majors and Minors and had a short stint as a pro scout with the Yankees, and he managed 14 seasons in the Minors with a composite 985-914 record. Mackanin even went 27-26 with the Pirates' affiliate in the Rookie level Gulf Coast League in 2006 after finishing the previous season as the interim manager of the big league club. He wanted to remain in the game, so at the age of 54, the former ballplayer welcomed the chance to take on the Minor League team. That, as much as anything, underscores that Mackanin is a baseball lifer. Even when he felt jilted, he never felt bitter. Like so many people in the game, Mackanin had a strong desire to be a big league manager, but he finally gave up that dream nine years ago. He had that interim opportunity with the Pirates when they fired Lloyd McClendon with a 55-81 record and 26 games remaining in 2005. Pittsburgh won 12 of the final 26 games with Mackanin in charge, but when it came time to hire a manager for '06, the Pirates went with Jim Tracy, who had managed the Dodgers the previous five seasons. A coach with the Reds when Jerry Narron was fired after a 31-51 start to 2007, Mackanin took over as the interim manager, saw the team go 41-39, but then Cincinnati hired Dusty Baker, a veteran of 14 years managing the Giants and Cubs. Mackanin did get interviews for managerial jobs with the Cubs, the Red Sox, the Astros and D-backs, but he wasn't hired. "I remember one question in Boston: 'You're 60 years old, why do you think you would get an opportunity to manage?'" Mackanin said with a smile. "I said, 'I don't want to introduce age into this decision. I don't think it is fair to take advantage of the youth and inexperience of the other candidates." Bobby Valentine got the job. Mackanin got the message. "I was at ease with everything," he said. "I still loved the game and wanted to be part of it, but I knew my time had passed [to be a manager]." Well, he thought his time had passed. Mackanin did take a coaching job with the Phillies, and when he was dismissed after the 2012 season, he became a scout with the Yankees. When Ryne Sandberg became the Phillies' manager, he hired Mackanin to be the third-base coach, and it was Mackanin who assumed the interim managerial job when Sandberg stepped down. He never thought he would be managing the team on a full-time basis in 2016. But he is. "I'm happy," Mackanin said. "I'm not out to prove anything. If I was 50, I would probably be a lot more anxious about things, but I turn 65 the first of August, and I'm managing in the big leagues. I am just doing what I have always done." Mackanin is doing the things he learned from those days, playing for the likes of Mauch and Martin.

Today In Phils History – On Wally Post’s 20th birthday, Phillies phans harassed Boston manager Billy Southworth in 1949 for not including Robin Roberts and Ken Heintzelman on the All Star roster. 4 years later, Robin Roberts was pulled in the 8th inning ending a streak of 28 straight complete games dating back to August of the previous season. In 1967, Dick Allen hit a monster homerun over the 40 foot high center field wall at Connie Mack Stadium. 20 years later, with his 513th career homerun, Mike Schmidt passed Eddie Matthews and Ernie Banks for 11th all time. Ricky Bottalico represented the Phillies well as their lone representative in the 1996 All Star Game at the Vet by pitching a scoreless inning of relief. Lastly, this is the day when newly acquired Joe Blanton made his Phillies debut in 2008.

The Phillies are currently 41-47 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 44-51-0 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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