Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Mad Max Trumped The Hoff

GAME RECAP: Nats Edge Phils 3-2

Once again Max Scherzer flirted with history, carrying a no-hitter into the sixth inning as he delivered another dominant start against the Phillies on Tuesday night. He overmatched the Phillies for eight innings, striking out 11 to lead the Nationals to a 3-2 victory. "I think when he goes out there, we're pretty pumped," Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said. "Being able to see him do what he does, every five days he has an opportunity to go out there and throw a perfect game or a no-no. That just goes to show how hard he works and how he goes about it. Lot of fun to watch, lot of fun to play behind, and just an absolute machine.” It was Washington's eighth consecutive victory over Philadelphia; the Nationals have won 13 of their last 15 games at Citizens Bank Park. Scherzer did not surrender a hit until the sixth inning, when Freddy Galvis lined a leadoff double off the wall in right field. Philadelphia got on the board in the seventh on a two-run homer from Ryan Howard, who had struggled mightily against Scherzer in his career. "We need to improve our plate discipline. We're just not getting hits," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "It plays into anybody's strengths who can change speeds." "I knew I needed to change it up and really start hitting my offspeed early in those first at-bats," Scherzer said, "because it just seemed like they were going to be very aggressive on that first-pitch fastball." Phillies right-hander Jerad Eickhoff entered the game with a 9.91 ERA from the sixth inning and later this season, so his day was done following the sixth after a quality start in which he allowed three runs and struck out four. "I know [Scherzer's] a tough pitcher, so I know I've got to be on point with my stuff as well," Eickhoff said. "Try to keep our guys getting into the dugout and [getting] the bats. He pitched a great game. You know that going in, so it's a challenge."

  • In the fourth inning, Trea Turner ripped a single into right and Danny Espinosa came flying around third, despite it being a hard-hit ball right to Aaron Altherr. Altherr came up firing, and his throw beat Espinosa to the plate by almost 10 feet. But instead of trying to dodge the tag or give himself up, the 6-foot, 206-pound Espinosa came barreling full speed into the stocky, 6-foot-2, 260-pound Rupp. Rupp won, holding onto the ball and getting Espinosa out. The play raised some eyebrows in the Phillies dugout, with catcher A.J. Ellis bringing up rule 7.13, which essentially states that a runner cannot deviate from his path to the plate to initiate contact with the catcher. The catcher, until he receives the ball, must give the runner a clear path. The consensus among the Phillies seemed to be that Rupp provided the path and that Espinosa chose to ram Rupp anyway. "You're going to have people that can say Espinosa could have gone to the inside, but I mean, it's baseball, man," Howard said. "You can't change every single thing about it. Ruppy's a big guy. He took the hit. I mean, actually, I think he liked it." "Yeah, it brought me back to my football days," Rupp said. "I thought it was ironic that Tim Tebow's trying out for baseball and I'm taking hits at the plate on the same day."
  • Howard planted a ball in the left-field seats in the seventh to give the Phillies their runs and third hit off Scherzer and make it a 3-2 game. It was his 20th homer in just 276 at-bats this season. Howard is averaging a home run every 13.8 at-bats this year, which is his best rate since 2009, when he averaged a homer every 13.7 at-bats. "It's cool," Howard said. "It just goes to show, just keep trying to [plug] away and just keep swinging and doing what you do. Even though it's a lot less at-bats, hopefully, it shows something." Mackanin had played Howard over Tommy Joseph because "a lot of people don't have good numbers against [Scherzer] anyway. Lefties at least hit him better."
  • It initially appeared as though Turner was thrown out on his steal in the seventh inning. The Nationals challenged the play, however, and the call was overturned.
  • For the ninth time in his 61 starts since he joined the Nationals before the start of the 2015 season, Scherzer carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning. He has done so more times than anyone else in the Majors during that span, almost 15 percent of his starts. Scherzer did not finish the feat, but still managed to give the Nationals eight strong innings. He also reached double-digit strikeouts for the 12th time this season, the most in the Majors and setting a Nationals record. "I'm sure everybody on the team was thinking [no-hitter], because they've seen it before," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. 
Adam Morgan starts Wednesday's series finale at 7:05 p.m. ET as the Phillies look to avoid being swept for the first time since losing four to the D-backs in mid-June. The Phils have lost their last eight to the Nationals, and 13 of their last 15 against them at Citizens Bank Park. Morgan gave up one run over six innings to the Cardinals two starts ago, but allowed six Mets to score over five innings his most recent start.


Howard Still Has Something Left – Ryan Howard hit his 20th homer of the season in Tuesday night's 3-2 loss to the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park. It is the 11th time Howard has hit 20 or more homers in a season, so the accomplishment in and of itself is not unusual. But considering that he has spent the 2016 campaign in a reserve role, it is noteworthy that he has hit 20 in just 276 at-bats. "It's cool," Howard said. "It just goes to show, just keep trying to [plug] away and just keep swinging and doing what you do. Even though it's a lot less at-bats, hopefully, it shows something." Howard is averaging a home run every 13.8 at-bats this season, his best rate since 2009, when he averaged a homer every 13.7 at-bats. He averaged a homer every 23.2 at-bats the previous three seasons. Howard is hitting .196 with 20 homers, 45 RBIs and a .692 OPS, but he has hit .299 with nine homers, 20 RBIs and a .992 OPS in 87 at-bats since July 3. Howard was 1-for-20 with 13 strikeouts in his career against Nationals ace Max Scherzer before hitting the two-run homer to left in the seventh. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin had played Howard over Tommy Joseph because "a lot of people don't have good numbers against [Scherzer] anyway. Lefties at least hit him better." "Felt good, but I was able to make the adjustment," Howard said. "Sometimes I think it's just being a little bit too quick, but I just try to slow everything down and relax and see the ball."

Planning For September – Ryan Howard got a start on Tuesday vs. Washington's Max Scherzer, but after this, his name will appear less frequently on the lineup card. "I'll play [Howard] today, then tomorrow [Tommy] Joseph," manager Pete Mackanin said. "Then I'll lean on Joseph a bit more the rest of the way. I want to see him more." The decision was not passed down the organizational chain; Mackanin said it was his alone. "It makes sense to see Joseph as much as possible," he said. "I don't want to happen to him what happened to [Darin] Ruf, where we didn't have opportunities to get him at-bats." Joseph, now 250 at-bats into his big league career, has cooled as Major League pitchers have adjusted to him. Meanwhile, Howard had performed so well since the All-Star break that rumors of a waiver deal began to swirl. In 72 at-bats since the halfway point, Howard has hit .306, with seven home runs. That, combined with Joseph's .247 average over that span and his sub-.300 on-base percentage on the season, led to an uptick in playing time for the 36-year-old. Joseph got the occasional start against right-handers, but his role had devolved; that will no longer be the case. "I'm not going to strictly play Joseph," Mackanin said, "but I'd like to get him as many at-bats as possible through the end of the season. "He's got a good approach. He's got some deficiencies. He's hitting .240- or .250-something. The league has started pitching to some weaknesses, and .250's not what we're looking for. But it's his first year, and he's got power."

Goeddel Remains In Reserve Role – Manager Pete Mackanin and the Phillies plan to use September's expanded rosters to get an extended look at some of their young players, but outfielder Tyler Goeddel won't be one of them. "I've seen enough of Goeddel to know -- we kept him this long, we're going to keep him and see where we go next year with him," Mackanin said. "I don't feel a need to play him." If the Phillies did not see a future for Goeddel -- a Rule 5 pick -- in the organization, they could have returned him to the Rays, but the 23-year-old apparently showed enough back in May to stick. Goeddel started all 22 games he played in May, posting a .794 OPS in 79 plate appearances. In the nearly three months since, he has started exactly as many games as he did that month. He's hardly thrived in the reserve role. In 111 plate appearances since June 1, his season OPS has decreased more than 100 points, and he's recorded only 13 hits -- four for extra bases -- in 100 at-bats. So Jimmy Paredes again started in left field on Tuesday -- not for Mackanin to get an extended look, but to insert some semblance of a power threat into the lineup. "Paredes, he's an extra player," Mackanin said. "That's why we got him, to try to get some offense into the lineup. He's been swinging the bat pretty well, [and Peter] Bourjos is coming off a wrist injury. We're just trying to get Paredes as many at-bats as possible to see if he can help us win a few games." The biggest chunk of Paredes' playing time has come since Aug. 1. His 10 games started is only two fewer than the 12 he started in the two months after the Phillies acquired him. He's hit .244 with a pair of home runs in August, and struck out 13 times in 45 at-bats.

Today In Phils History – In 1894, Billy Hamilton (the original Billy Hamilton) stole 7 bases in an 8 inning win over Washington. With rumors of a fix swirling in 1920, Cubs pitcher Claude Hendrix is scratched from his scheduled start in favor of former Phillie Pete Alexander who subsequently lost the game 3-0. The Phillies chartered their 1st flight on this day in 1950 flying from St. Louis to Boston (a 1t experience for many players) and prompting a call to TWA head Howard Hughes after experiencing significant turbulence during a thunderstorm. 6 years later, with starting pitcher Harvey Haddix having to withdraw due to back spasms, infielder Granny Hamner steps in as an emergency starter and goes 4 1/3 innings giving up 4 runs and 9 hits which taking the loss (he also made 2 other relief appearances that season and took the loss both times). Despite a career 594-510-1 records and 3 division titles, the Phillies fired manager Danny Ozark on this day in 1979 and replaced him with former pitcher and minor league and scouting director Dallas Green. In 2006, in the 4th inning of a game against the Nationals at RFK Stadium, Ryan Howard connected for his 49th homerun of the season breaking the franchise single season record previously held by Mike Schmidt. The following season, Kane Davis became the 28th pitcher used by the Phillies that season setting a new team record. In 2011, Cliff Lee became the 3rd pitcher in MLB history to have 2 consecutive months during which he had 5+ wins, 0 losses, and an ERA under 0.50. 2 years later, the Phillies traded away John McDonald and Michael Young in 2 separate transactions. John Mayberry Jr. met the same fate on this day the following season. Finally, happy 58th birthday Von Hayes!

The Phillies are currently 60-72 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 48-61-0 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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Offense Fails To Support Rookie In Loss

GAME RECAP: Nats Blank Phils 4-0

The Nationals began a stretch of 22 consecutive games against National League East opponents on Monday night, a chance, perhaps, for them to get on a roll considering they began the day with the best record against their own division in the Majors. They began that stretch with a gem from right-hander Tanner Roark, combined with a two-run first inning, for a 4-0 victory over the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Roark held the Phillies to four hits in seven innings while Jayson Werth continued to torment his former team with a solo homer in the first inning. "I think after the first two innings, I started executing and really driving the ball in there," Roark said. "Instead of using my upper body, I used my legs as well. Everything felt in sync." Washington added a pair of runs in the ninth inning and has now won nine of its 13 meetings with Philadelphia this season, including seven in a row. The Phillies did receive an encouraging start from right-hander Jake Thompson, the team's top pitching prospect and fifth ranked overall, who lasted a career-high seven innings. After giving up two runs in the first, Thompson scattered five singles and did not allow a run across the remainder of the outing, with three strikeouts and one walk. "What a job he did after the first inning," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "In the first inning, it was more of the same. He hung a breaking ball to Werth and gradually, as the game went along, he got better and better. ... A real positive outing."

  • The Nationals didn't score on Thompson after the first, and they hardly even mounted a threat in his final six innings. The rookie got off to another rocky start in the first, allowing Werth's home run and Anthony Rendon's RBI single for a 2-0 lead. But Washington didn't put two runners on base in an inning again until the seventh, and Thompson pitched out of it, finishing his night with possibly the best of his career-high 111 pitches, a curveball that froze Trea Turner to end the inning. "I thought about getting him out after six to keep it positive, but I thought he was just pitching too well," Mackanin said. "In that seventh inning, he really battled hard to get out of that. All three of his strikeouts were in that one inning. That was huge. Great to see. I'm real pleased with that." Pitching coach Bob McClure made a change to Thompson's delivery between starts, simplifying it, and it paid major dividends. "Just on the physical side of things, I'm in a better position to make pitches," Thompson said. "It actually wasn't too difficult. It's really simple, just small moving parts instead of a bunch of stuff moving at the same time. I got off a mound twice this week in the bullpen. I feel like that helped a lot, just getting those reps."
  • The Phillies' bullpen has been among the most active in the Majors this season, especially of late. Philly relievers have thrown the eighth-most innings in the month of August. Manager Pete Mackanin sounded excited at the prospect of adding some relief arms when rosters expand on Sept. 1, saying the Phillies will immediately recall "a couple arms." But Thompson, in his fifth Major League start -- and having not gotten past five innings previously -- provided the relief the 'pen needed, going seven strong. He joined Jeremy Hellickson (Aug. 20) as the only two starters to pitch seven innings since July 26.
  • "McClure noticed something with his leg. I'm not going to get up and demonstrate. But it's his lead leg. He was lifting it a certain way, which kind of caused him to lean forward and not stay over his backside. Oddly enough, he used a new leg lift, which is not easy to do just overnight. I think that had a lot to do with it. It looked real good; his command was really good. He started to throw a lot of good pitches; he looked like the pitcher that was advertised." -- Mackanin, on the change in Thompson's delivery.
  • The Nationals issued a challenge in the ninth inning after Rendon was only awarded second base on a fan-interference play on an errant pickoff throw by right-hander Frank Herrmann. The call on the field was overturned, and Rendon was awarded third base; he would later score on a single by Robinson.
  • The Phillies joined the Nats in ninth-inning challenges when Chris Heisey hit a potential inning-ending double-play ball to first baseman Tommy Joseph. Joseph fired to second; Mackanin issued a challenge, saying that Danny Espinosa slid too aggressively into the bag. He wanted Heisey ruled out at first after the throw back to Joseph was too late, but replay confirmed that Espinosa's slide was within the rules.
  • Werth spent four seasons with the Phillies, winning a World Series, and considers Citizens Bank Park one of his favorite places to play. He homered in his first at-bat on Monday and now has 11 homers and 29 RBIs in his last 29 games in Philadelphia dating back to the start of the 2013 season. It was his seventh home run this month, tied for the most he has hit in any calendar month as a member of the Nationals. "Home runs come in streaks, and home runs come with a thought process," manager Dusty Baker said. "When you start hitting a couple home runs, it's sort of like you think about it. ... So you know me, I always feel that water seeks its own level. J-W is healthy this year, where he wasn't last year, and he's always hit the ball out of the ballpark." 
Jerad Eickhoff (9-12, 3.87 ERA) starts the middle game, and it will be interesting to see how Mackanin monitors his pitch count, as he pulled him from his last start after 71 pitches through six innings of two-run ball.


Small Change, Big Difference – Pretend you're a Major League pitcher. Take a big step back with your left foot and lift your arms over your head, rock back a little and fire. Now eliminate those movements, just raise your lead leg and throw again. See the difference? That's the change that Phillies pitching coach Bob McClure made to Jake Thompson's delivery between Thompson's most recent start and Monday's, the best of his Major League career. The rookie right-hander tossed seven innings and allowed only two runs to the Nationals in a 4-0 Phillies loss at Citizens Bank Park. Rather than the standard single side session between starts, Thompson worked back-to-back bullpens on Saturday and Sunday in New York. Prior to Saturday he'd never thrown a pitch the way he did fairly dominantly, all things considered, only two days later. McClure approached Thompson before Saturday's session, saying, "Hey, I want you to try this." He then proposed stripping Thompson's delivery bare -- not even a windup. "First I was trying to go from the side and still go over my head," Thompson said. "The timing really wasn't there. Then he had me try it without it, and I had a really good bullpen after that, and we kind of just stuck with it." In Sunday's second bullpen session, he threw only a dozen or so pitches, but he said the additional work helped him immensely. Thompson had thrown thousands of pitches using the delivery that caused him so many issues in his first four Major League starts. It was a conundrum, as he posted a 2.50 ERA in Triple-A doing the same thing. "The only thing I can probably pinpoint is, it has a lot to do with timing," he said. "Coming up here and struggling kind of disrupted my timing a little bit." Thompson posted a 9.78 ERA through those first four starts, the second highest by a Phillies starter in his first four Major League outings. "It was his lead leg," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "He was lifting it a certain way, which kind of caused him to lean forward and not stay over his backside. He simplified everything. Too many moving parts. His leg lift was a little unorthodox, and it caused him to lean forward instead of staying over his backside. So that, with the simplified mechanics, I think, helped him a lot." Changing mechanics overnight seems like an impossible task, but for Thompson it was easy. It's almost the same motion, just with the entire first half of his delivery eliminated. Although the change in results was drastic, the tweak was simple. "It actually wasn't too difficult," Thompson said. "It's really simple, just small moving parts instead of a bunch of stuff moving at the same time."

A First Pitch To Be Proud Of – A rainbow flag fluttered from a flagpole in center field at Citizens Bank Park on Monday. Billy Bean, Major League Baseball's vice president of social responsibility and inclusion, threw out a first pitch. That was both fitting -- it was the inaugural Phillies Pride Night -- but not exactly a new gesture by the club, since it was also the 15th consecutive year the organization has recognized the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. It all started when a fan named Larry Felzer approached the Phillies with a question. If he sold 500 tickets, could the LGBT fans get the same recognition on the scoreboard and elsewhere that any other group did? The answer was yes, putting the franchise far ahead of the curve, and the promotion has been a success ever since. This year, the Phils set aside a date -- in this case, the series opener against the Nationals -- without attaching it to a minimum number of tickets to be sold. Other clubs that have held official Pride events this season are the Athletics, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Giants, Mariners, Mets, Nationals, Padres, Rays and Red Sox. The Cubs are holding one this Sunday. Bean, who was hired by MLB on July 15, 2014, acknowledged before the game that he's always a little nervous about any sort of potential negative reaction, even though his personal experience so far has been overwhelmingly positive. "It's not to polarize anybody or alienate any of our fans. Most fans will come and not even be aware that that's going on," Bean said. "But there will be a large group of LGBT people who are absolutely aware and feeling supported and wearing shirts and know they're in a supportive environment to express their true selves. So to me, the importance of it being the inaugural Phillies Pride Night is that we've had a decade and a half of successful nights that led up to this." Bean only visits teams when asked; this was his fifth time he's been invited to visit the Phillies. In fact, one of his first appearances after he was hired was to speak at the Phils' organizational meetings. Pride Night is like most of the group nights that are held each season, with two important differences. One is that the LGBT community spans all other groups. For example, Monday was also the team's Jewish Heritage Celebration. "The LGBT community is a part of every community," Bean said. "So there are members of the Jewish community that are part of the LGBT community. So I think we cross into every special-interest group." The other is that most of the other groups take basic liberties, like the right to get married, for granted. Said Bean: "People are not initiating religious-freedom laws to take away the rights of [other groups] right now." "Everyone has a right to bring their passion to the front office of a big league organization and say, 'We want to celebrate the things that matter most to us, and we're going to do it by having a party in your stadium. And here are 1,500 ticket requests.'" The shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., earlier this year emphasize the importance of the issue, and Bean is working to help baseball become a leader, inspired by the way that Jackie Robinson helped break down racial barriers in 1947. "We have a great product on the field, and I think we're expanding the initiatives of social responsibility, which makes me very proud," Bean said. "It's about everyone coming to the ballpark and feeling like they can sit right next to the person that's most important to them in their life and cheer as loud as they can. "That's the beauty of embracing the responsibility that goes with that privilege and us making a great impression for people who may never have heard of an LGBT night. Let's throw an olive branch out across the aisle and make friends. We don't need to be separated. When you raise the visibility, it allows a conversation to be expanded. It's a chance to get to know people better. Then, as communication or conversations happen, we start to see the things we have in common. And then it doesn't seem like such a foreign or scary interaction. "If the fear was that we don't have anything in common, I can tell you that we have baseball in common. That's a start." And when the former big leaguer, one of only two to come out as gay, threw out the first pitch on Monday night, he was greeted with a warm round of applause.

Today In Phils History – In a game that was originally forfeited in 1913 to New York due to fans trying to distract opposing hitters, the NL later ruled that the game should be continued and the Phillies pulled out the victory. Possum Whitted had quite the unique extra inning homerun to give the Phillies the victory in 10 innings in 1915 when the ball bounced off the front of the bleachers, then off the outfielder’s chest, and over the fence for the game winner. Phil Collins had another day in paradise when he pitched a 1 hitter against the Giants at the Polo Grounds in 1931. After retiring the last 17 batters he faced in his start against St. Louis, Saul Rogovin retired the 1st 15 Cubs batters in 1955 to tie the MLB record. The Phillies received Bob Browning in 1970 from St. Louis as a replacement player in the Curt Flood trade. Kent Tekulve became only the 2nd pitcher in MLB history to appear in 1000 games when he faced 4 batters in the Phillies win over the Giants in 1988. The Phillies acquired Wes Chamberlain from the Pirates in 1990. Lenny Dykstra tied a team record with his 4th leadoff homerun of the season in 1993. 5 years later, Jeff Kent lined into a triple play with Alex Arias, Mark Lewis, and Rico Brogna recording the outs against the Giants. In 2000, on his 56th birthday, Tug McGraw was inducted in the Philles Wall of Fame with is son, Tim McGraw presenting him with a leather jacket with his number 45 on the back and a motorcycle. The Phillies acquired Matt Stairs on this day in 2008, a move that would pay huge dividends in the post season. Other Phillies celebrating birthdays today include Marlon Byrd (1977) and Roberto Hernandez (1980).

The Phillies are currently 60-71 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 55-61-0 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.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Phillies Salvage Win Thanks To Ellis

GAME RECAP: Phillies Mock Mets 5-1

In his debut with the Phillies, catcher A.J. Ellis broke a seventh-inning tie with a two-run double, highlighting a four-run frame in a 5-1 victory over the Mets on Sunday at Citi Field. Through six innings, Mets right-hander Robert Gsellman's first Major League start had gone swimmingly, allowing only one run on four hits while striking out five. Then came the seventh. The rookie allowed three straight singles to open the frame before exiting. With the game knotted up at 1, Ellis welcomed Hansel Robles out of the bullpen by drilling a two-run double over the head of left fielder Curtis Granderson, and the Phillies went on to score two more runs in the inning. "[Gsellman] was cruising along," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "He made some pitches and got some ground balls. He had a pretty low pitch count ... and I thought he was pitching pretty good. Unfortunately, he gave up the three hits." Despite the loss, the Mets remained 2 1/2 games back of the second National League Wild Card spot as the Cardinals lost to the A's. Phillies starter Vince Velasquez wasn't efficient, needing 103 pitches to get through five innings, but he was effective. The right-hander surrendered only one run -- a Granderson sacrifice fly in the first -- on five hits while striking out seven. "We've had periods like that, where we got beat pretty bad and that's one of the things these guys have done -- they put it behind them," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said, referring to the Phils losing the first two games of the series by a combined 21-5 margin. "They've been resilient. They came back and played baseball. That's a testament to the guys. They play hard." The Mets lost shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who left the game with a sore left knee in the first inning following a first-base collision with the Phillies' Tommy Joseph.

  • The Phillies acquired Ellis in the Carlos Ruiz trade with the Dodgers on Thursday, he joined the team Saturday and he appeared in his first game Sunday. He went hitless in his first two plate appearances before he ripped a double to left field with the bases loaded and no outs in the seventh. Ellis' double scored two runs to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead. He later scored on a sacrifice fly to give the Phillies a 5-1 lead. "It felt good regardless of what's happened in the last four days," Ellis said. "It feels good to drive in runs, feels good to help put your team ahead and help contribute to a team win."
  • Up until the seventh, the Phillies were having a difficult time getting a good swing off Gsellman. In those six innings, Philadelphia hit just three batted balls that had exit velocities greater than 100 mph, according to Statcast™. The right-hander tossed a perfect fifth and sixth and entered the seventh with only 84 pitches, but the Phillies apparently figured him out. The singles off the bats of Tommy Joseph, Aaron Altherr and Jimmy Paredes in that frame clocked in at 109 mph, 109 mph and 100 mph, respectively.
  • It has been a rough few weeks for Velasquez, who posted a 10.47 ERA in his past three starts and a 7.29 ERA in his past six. But after he worked out of jams in both the first and second innings against the Mets he retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced to give him his best start in more than a month. "I guess it's just a step in the right direction," Velasquez said. "I had another high pitch count, another long first inning, but I battled my way through it and made my pitches."
  • "I told these guys when I came in, the one thing you know about the Phillies is if they get a lead late, the game is over. [Edubray] Ramos, [Hector] Neris and [Jeanmar] Gomez. The game's over. Those guys are lights-out. We saw it firsthand in L.A., and I got to see it behind the plate today." – Ellis.
  • Phillies setup man Neris struck out one in a scoreless eighth. He is 3-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his past 31 appearances.
  • Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis stood on third with one out in the third, when Cesar Hernandez dropped a bunt up the third-base line. Mets third baseman Jose Reyes threw to first and first baseman James Loney threw to the plate to get Galvis for an inning-ending double play. Why was Hernandez bunting there? "When you're swinging the bat well and getting hits, I'd prefer for him to swing the bat," Mackanin said. "He's swinging the bat as well as anybody we have. But I'm not going to fault him for it. If he gets the bunt down the third-base line, then he gets the run in. I'd prefer him to swing, but what he did I can't criticize him for."
Phillies right-hander Jake Thompson (1-3, 9.78 ERA) has struggled in each of his first four big league starts, unable to pitch more than five innings in any of them. He faces the Nationals in Monday's 7:05 p.m. ET series opener at Citizens Bank Park.


Solid Debut – A.J. Ellis could not hide his disappointment Thursday, when the Dodgers blindsided him and traded him to the Phillies. He had been with the Dodgers since they drafted him 2003, and they have a legitimate chance to reach the World Series this year. The Phillies? They hope to contend, maybe in a year or two. But as Ellis joined the Phillies on Saturday, he said his feelings of disappointment had started to fade and he had refocused and found a new purpose with his new team. Ellis came up big in Sunday afternoon's 5-1 victory over the Mets at Citi Field. Making his first appearance in a Phillies uniform, he doubled to left field with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning. Two runs scored to give the Phillies a 3-1 lead. He later scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 5-1. "It felt good regardless of what's happened in the last four days," Ellis said. "It feels good to drive in runs, feels good to help put your team ahead and help contribute to a team win. "It's just great to be playing baseball again. You kind of lose yourself in the competition and then playing again. It was a long morning for me prepping, but as soon as that first pitch came, I was back in the game and felt right where I was supposed to be." Ellis certainly felt at home behind the plate, where he has a stellar reputation. He caught a couple of bullpen sessions Saturday and then spent the second half of Saturday night's game in the bullpen, talking to the relievers, learning what they like to throw. He worked hard with Sunday starter Vince Velasquez before the game, too. "You just have to dive right in, no hesitation and communicate with the guys," Ellis said. "You can't say enough of what these guys on the mound did out there today, what Vince did, his pitch count got elevated the first two innings and he was able to grind through the last three to turn the ball over to David [Hernandez] in the sixth. That showed a lot to me, the way he was able to battle and bulldog his way through five tough innings. "And like I told these guys when I came in, the one thing you know about the Phillies is if they get a lead late, the game is over. [Edubray] Ramos, [Hector] Neris and [Jeanmar] Gomez. The game's over. Those guys are lights-out. We saw it firsthand in L.A., and I got to see it behind the plate today."

Another Step Forward – Vince Velasquez did not pitch to perfection Sunday afternoon at Citi Field, but he pitched to positive results anyway. He needed them. He allowed five hits, one run, one walk and struck out seven in five innings in a 5-1 victory over the Mets. He threw 103 pitches, loading the bases with one out in the first and working with runners on first and second with no outs in the second. But he worked out of both jams and retired 12 of the final 14 batters he faced. "I guess it's just a step in the right direction," Velasquez said. "I had another high pitch count, another long first inning, but I battled my way through it and made my pitches." Velasquez (8-6, 4.21 ERA) had struggled recently, posting a 10.47 ERA in his previous three starts and a 7.29 ERA in his previous six. He also had given up eight home runs in his previous 15 1/3 innings after he allowed just 11 in his first 103 2/3. So, yes, Velasquez needed this, even if he found himself frustrated with his pitch count. "It just [stinks] to put yourself in situations like that every outing," he said. "To be in a predicament like that is very hard to get out of. On my part, I don't want to be in that situation. I'm going to have to battle through it, but that's just something to keep under my cap and work on in the offseason and to approach it the right way coming into Spring Training." Velasquez should get at least one or two more starts. He has pitched 124 innings, just two-thirds of an inning short of his season high in professional baseball. The Phillies had targeted 150 for Velasquez, but if he continues to pitch only five or six per start, he might not hit that number. "Yeah, I think that would be the right move," Velasquez said about 150 innings. "Discussing with the pitching coach [Bob McClure], they don't want to go too far and they don't want to go too low with my innings. I don't' know. It's their call, but I would like to get to 10 wins and call it a season. "Today was a struggle, but again, it was a step in the right direction." That is the goal for Velasquez: Enter the offseason feeling some good vibes. The Phillies remain high on him, despite his recent struggles. He is still learning on the job and everybody still sees his potential. "The stuff is electric," Phillies catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He has so many weapons, so many options. When he keeps growing and keeps polishing that gift up, it's going to be really, really special. So I'm excited to be able to continue to work with him, excited now to work with him and Bob McClure and [catcher] Cameron Rupp, kind of talk to them about things, things he sees, that we see, together we can build a plan for him going forward in his career."

Pulling Back – Any small chance that Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson had to be traded before the end of the season has become no chance. Sources confirmed Sunday afternoon that Hellickson recently had been claimed on waivers. But the Phillies could not complete a trade with the claiming team, so they pulled him off waivers, making him ineligible to be traded the rest of the year. first reported the news. So what's next for Hellickson, who the Phillies also tried to trade before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline? He is set to become a free agent after the season. The Phillies are expected to make him a qualifying offer, which allows them to receive a compensation pick in the 2017 Draft, if he rejects the offer and signs elsewhere. It is likely that he rejects the offer, but Hellickson might be tempted by the one-year offer worth an estimated $17 million. Hellickson, 29, is 10-8 with a 3.80 ERA in 26 starts this season.

Today In Phils History – On this day in 1981, while playing for the Phillies’ farm club in Spartansburg, Jeff Stone set the professional baseball record for stolen bases with his 121st of the season (the record would only stand for a year). Phillies phans set a record of their own in 1993 when the Phillies home attendance topped 40,000 for the 20th game in a row setting a franchise record. Three years later, the Phillies parted ways with Pete Incaviglia and Todd Zeile when they sent them to Baltimore for 2 players to be named later. Lastly, Happy Birthday to Aaron Rowand and Roy Oswalt who were both born on this day in 1977.

The Phillies are currently 60-70 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 45-60-1 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.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Phillies Get Crushed… Again!

GAME RECAP: Mets Murder Phillies 12-1

He had sent Citi Field into delirium once more, and Yoenis Cespedes wanted to show the 35,832 fans his appreciation. Jogging back to the dugout in the fourth inning of the Mets' 12-1 win over the Phillies on Saturday night, his 26th homer of the year in the seats, Cespedes raised both hands to his lips and blew the Mets faithful a kiss. Queens has fallen in love with Yoenis Cespedes over the past 13 months, and with his three-run laser Saturday night, Cespedes set the wheels in motion for another Mets onslaught of the Phillies. "There's some confidence in there right now. Some guys are coming through that hadn't been coming through," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "We've been talking endlessly about not getting hits with runners in scoring position; right now we are. It looks like a completely different team." While Noah Syndergaard allowed just two hits through seven innings of one-run ball, the night was less bountiful for Jeremy Hellickson, whose ERA rose from 3.60 to 3.80. He was pulled before the start of the fifth, having already been knocked around for a pair of homers. "I just lost command of pretty much all three pitches tonight," Hellickson said. "I think the two home runs were probably two of the better fastballs that I threw. It's a good lineup. It's hot right now." Philadelphia's bullpen was hardly exempt from the bludgeoning. The Mets pushed their lead to 10 with a six-run seventh inning, which was punctuated by a pinch-hit grand slam off the bat of Kelly Johnson. With the blast, the Mets' 86th at home the season, the team broke the single-season record for home runs at Citi Field, set in 2015. Neil Walker added a solo shot the next inning, giving the Mets four homers, including a grand slam, for the second straight night. "The energy's just different in the room right now," Collins said. With 18 home games remaining, the Mets are on pace for 112 dingers in Queens. Staring down a huge deficit, the Phillies couldn't mount a comeback. Odubel Herrera singled in the bottom of the ninth, the Phillies' second hit since the third inning, but they couldn't put up much of a fight. The Cardinals lost, 3-2, to Oakland on Saturday night, meaning the Mets, who have now won six of their last seven games, moved to within 2 1/2 games of the National League's second Wild Card spot.

  • Hellickson has been one of the Phillies' steadiest starters, pitching six or more innings in 15 of his last 18 starts entering the night. But he suffered the second-shortest start of his season Saturday, allowing seven hits and five runs in four innings. He pitched a season-low three innings April 15 against the Nationals. "It was one of those nights," Hellickson said. "I really didn't have much."
  • Galvis hit his 14th homer of the season in the third, hitting a 2-2 curveball from Syndergaard over the right-field wall. Galvis is tied for 13th among big league shortstops in home runs. It was one of two hits Syndergaard allowed. "He was the same as always," Galvis said of Syndergaard's dominance.
Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez (8-6, 4.31 ERA) faces the Mets in the series finale Sunday afternoon at Citi Field at 1:10 p.m. ET. Velasquez has struggled recently, allowing 19 earned runs in 16 1/3 innings in his last three starts. The Phillies are monitoring his workload this season, so this might be one of his final starts of 2016.


Falling Off The Mound – This is not the way the Phillies wanted to enter the final month of the season. After the Mets pounded them Saturday night at Citi Field, 12-1, they find themselves limping into September with just four more games to play in August. The Phillies have lost seven of their last 10, with their starters posting a 6.79 ERA (42 earned runs in 55 2/3 innings) in that stretch. "Tonight was embarrassing," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. But the Phillies' starting pitching problems go back further than that. The rotation has a 6.85 ERA (107 earned runs in 140 2/3 innings) in 27 games since July 27. Incredibly, the Phillies are 13-14 in that stretch. "Bad pitching," Mackanin said. "The funny thing about it is we are 11-11 in the month of August. So it's hard to figure out." Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson allowed five runs in four innings, which was his second-shortest start of the season. Hellickson had pitched six or more innings in 15 of his previous 18 starts. But a two-run homer to Asdrubal Cabrera in the third and three-run homer to Yoenis Cespedes in the fourth helped to cut his night short. "They're an aggressive lineup," Hellickson said. "They're hot right now. They're not missing too many mistakes, just grinding out at-bats and making us work. When I got ahead I couldn't put them away. Then I fell behind. I had three walks in four innings, which can't happen. It was one of those nights. I really didn't have much. "I just lost command of pretty much all three pitches tonight. I think the two home runs were probably two of the better fastballs that I threw. It's a good lineup. It's hot right now." The Phillies' bullpen took over from there. David Hernandez pitched two scoreless innings before Michael Mariot allowed six runs in the seventh, including a pinch-hit grand slam to Kelly Johnson. Mariot allowed a grand slam to Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley last week. Severino Gonzalez then allowed a solo homer to Neil Walker in the eighth. The Phillies needed to pitch almost perfectly against Mets stud Noah Syndergaard, who allowed just one run -- Freddy Galvis' solo homer to right in the third inning, which actually gave the Phillies a 1-0 lead. "He was the same as always," Galvis said of Syndergaard's dominance. Of course, it's not all bad. At 59-70, the Phillies have the 10th-worst record in baseball, and if they finish in the bottom 10, their first-round pick in the 2017 Draft will be protected. That is important because teams with protected picks can sign a free agent that has rejected a qualifying offer without penalty. That could come in handy if the Phillies try to upgrade via free agency in the offseason.

The Shock Fades – A.J. Ellis seemed to be in better spirits Saturday than Thursday, when he learned the Dodgers traded him to the Phillies. Ellis had spent his entire career with Los Angeles, which leads the National League West and has World Series aspirations. But in a flash, Ellis learned his time in L.A. had ended as the Dodgers sent him, a Class A Advanced pitching prospect and a player to be named later to the Phillies for Carlos Ruiz. Not only did Ellis have to leave the only place he had ever played, but he had to join an organization not headed to the postseason. Ellis joined the Phillies before Saturday night's game against the Mets at Citi Field. He said he is getting acclimated to his new reality. "The first 12 hours were definitely the hardest," he said. "Really hard to say goodbye to a lot of relationships I had been blessed to forge for more than a decade. "I told someone earlier on the way in that the waves of emotion are getting farther and farther apart, which is a good thing. To arrive here and arrive in the clubhouse, meeting the staff, I'm starting to feel reenergized, refilled with a sense of purpose as to why I've been placed here, and why this is where I need to be at this time. I'm excited about that." Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said he totally understood Ellis' heartbreak at being traded Thursday. "You get traded off a contending team to a non-contender, you can't be happy about that," he said. "But he's over it. He's moving forward." In fact, the Phillies called a special hitters meeting before Saturday's game. The Phillies played six games earlier this month against the Dodgers, and they wanted Ellis to tell Phillies' hitters how the Dodgers attacked them. "I think it would be good for our hitters to hear that from an outside source," Mackanin said. "We were doing some of that with the pitchers out there," said Ellis, who caught a couple bullpen sessions before the game. "We can dig into those conversations and talk to the offensive side of how we wanted to attack them, and as a catcher, things that I've noticed from watching them swing the bats. Maybe shrink the gaps a little bit and create better offensive at-bats. When you have a better understanding of how the opposing team is trying to get you out, it can only be a benefit." Ellis is set to become a free agent after the season, and with Cameron Rupp establishing himself as the No. 1 catcher and catching prospects Jorge Alfaro and Andrew Knapp on the horizon, Ellis might only be with the Phillies until the end of the season. So what has him energized to play these final few weeks, especially considering the dramatic drop he took in the NL standings? "Guys [in Philadelphia] are playing for things," Ellis said. "Guys are playing for their careers. Guys are playing to make their mark in this game and building on the building blocks to create a winning franchise once again in Philadelphia. If I can in some short time here impact some wisdom on those guys, share some of the wisdom along the way that I've picked up from some great mentors I've had in my time in the game, I need to pay it back, from all that's been given to me."

Anticipated Shut Downs – The end is coming for Phillies right-hander Vince Velasquez, who pitches Sunday afternoon against the Mets at Citi Field. The end is coming for rookie Jake Thompson, too. The Phillies are monitoring their workloads, and it is expected both will be shut down sometime before the end of the season. "We've talked about it," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said Saturday. "I haven't been involved in in-depth conversations, but I know at some point Thompson is going to be cut short, and Velasquez is going to be cut short at some point. But it's not an exact science right now. We don't have a definite date yet. Maybe another week. It depends on how many innings they give us now." Once they stop pitching, it would not be a surprise to see right-handers Alec Asher and David Buchanan take their spots in the rotation.

Today In Phils History – The Phillies started quite the streak on this day in 1901 winning the 1st of 10 in a row which they wouldn’t accomplish again until July 1955. For the 2nd time in his career, Rick Wise hit two homeruns in a game (including a grand slam) in 1971 supporting his own effort over the Giants for the win. Greg Golson hit for the cycle at single A Clearwater on this day in 2006. Finally, happy birthday to Tony Gonzalez (1936) and Ryan Madson (1980).  

The Phillies are currently 59-70 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 46-67-0 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.