Thursday, August 4, 2016

Howard And Rupp And Franco… Oh My!

GAME RECAP: Phillies Outlast Giants 5-4

The Giants' midsummer nightmare continued Wednesday night as Maikel Franco's bases-loaded fielder's choice off Jake Peavy snapped a 12th-inning deadlock and gave the Philadelphia Phillies a 5-4 victory. The National League West-leading Giants fell to 4-13 since the All-Star break, the worst record in the Majors during that span. "It's hard to believe," Giants right-hander Johnny Cueto said of the team's skid. "We're a good team. All we can do is keep grinding and putting our best stuff out there every time." Cueto appeared to be in control as he blanked the Phillies on three hits through six innings. He ultimately finished with 10 strikeouts and just one walk. Though Cueto began to falter in the seventh inning, when he surrendered back-to-back homers to Ryan Howard and Cameron Rupp, he seemed more unhappy about Franco's two-out, two-run single that forged a 4-4 tie in the eighth. "Both [Madison] Bumgarner and Cueto are two of the best pitchers in the league, so you have to go out there and not think too much," said Franco, who has five hits in the first two games of the series. "We've had good success with those guys and I feel pretty good about it." The Giants jumped ahead, 4-0, as Posey accounted for every San Francisco run. He smacked a two-run single in the first inning before doubling home a run and scoring in the third.

  • The Phillies recalled right-hander Phil Klein from Triple-A Lehigh Valley on Wednesday because they placed right-hander Aaron Nola on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow. Klein allowed eight hits, four runs and one walk and struck out three in five innings, but he kept the Phillies close enough for a comeback. The Phillies optioned Klein back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following the game. "Got the first guy on a lot of the innings," Klein said. "It's hard to work out of those a lot of the time. Just tried my best to at least get through five and keep 'em in the game the best I could." 
  • It took awhile, but Franco's game-winning drive up the middle in the 12th was the first walk-off of his career. Franco is 5-for-10 with one home run and seven RBIs in the first two games of this three-game series against the Giants. "I got my RBI, we win the ballgame, that's what this game is all about," Franco said.
  • "I definitely have to buy Maikel some dinner or something." -- Phillies right fielder Aaron Altherr, who cost Franco a hit in the 12th when he didn't touch second base. The walk-off was originally ruled a fielder's choice, then changed to a hit, before it was ultimately determined to be a fielder's choice.
  • The Giants questioned a fourth-inning umpiring decision in which Angel Pagan was called out at first base. Had Pagan been ruled safe, the Giants would have had another run. But a replay review determined the call on the field stands and Pagan was retired for the inning's final out.
  • San Francisco received a break -- and an out -- on a crew chief review of Altherr's infield single in the eighth inning. Upon further examination, Altherr was declared out, and the call on the field was overturned.
  • The Phillies challenged Hunter Pence's slide into second base in the 11th inning, which broke up a potential double play. After a short review, the call on the field was confirmed. Pence's slide was legal.
  • Another crew chief review in the 11th inning overturned a ruling that held thatFreddy Galvis was safe at first base. The out on Galvis resulted in an inning-ending double play for the Giants.
Right-hander Velasquez pitches in the 1:05 p.m. ET series finale Wednesday against the Giants. The Phillies and Rangers discussed a potential trade for Velasquez before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, but the deal never got close.


Celebrating Too Early – Maikel Franco hit a baseball into right-center field in the 12th inning to beat the Giants on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park. He touched first base and sprinted straight into the outfield to avoid a crush of teammates and celebrate the 5-4 victory. "I get excited," Franco said following the walk-off win. He had reason to be excited. The Phillies have won the first two games of a three-game series against the Giants, scoring eight runs in five innings against Madison Bumgarner on Tuesday and four runs in 7 2/3 innings against Johnny Cueto on Wednesday. In four starts against the Phillies this season, Cueto and Bumgarner have a 6.12 ERA. They have a 2.10 ERA against everybody else. "Next time we're going to have to put a limit on how far [Franco] can run," said Tommy Joseph, who scored the winning run from third base. "That was absurd." Phillies right fielder Aaron Altherr got caught up in the moment, too. He was on first base when Franco hit the first pitch from Jake Peavy into the outfield. He knew Joseph had scored the game-winning run so he stopped running and never touched second. He joined the celebration with his teammates instead. But he soon noticed Giants right fielder Hunter Pence retrieve the baseball in the outfield and hurriedly throw to second where Giants catcher Buster Posey stepped on the bag. Second-base umpire Dale Scott signaled an out. "I was like, what's going on here?" Altherr said. "Then when I saw him throw to second I was like, 'Oh, crap.'" The official scorer initially ruled Franco's hit a fielder's choice because Altherr stopped running, taking away Franco's first official walk-off hit. "I definitely have to buy Maikel some dinner or something," Altherr said. Franco said he couldn't have cared less. "Not at all," he said with a big smile. "Not at all. It's more important that we won the ballgame. I got my RBI, we won the ballgame, that's what this game is all about." Franco was later awarded the walk-off hit, albeit briefly. The official scorer reversed his initial stance upon discovering Rule 5.08 (b), which states that the game is finished once the winning run scores and the batter reaches first base safely. In short, it didn't matter that Altherr never touched second. But on Thursday, the ruling changed for a third time. MLB officially ruled the play a fielder's choice, again taking away the hit. Franco will have to wait for his first career walk-off hit after all. The rally started when Joseph got hit by a pitch to start the inning. Phillies reliever Luis Garcia then dropped a perfect sacrifice bunt in the front of the mound. Garcia joined the team this week after the Phillies designated Andrew Bailey for assignment Tuesday. Garcia had not held a bat since Spring Training. "I start Monday," Garcia said about giving the Phillies' pitchers bunting lessons. Cesar Hernandez walked to put runners on first and second with one out when Altherr reached on an error by third baseman Eduardo Nunez to load the bases. Franco ended the game on the next pitch.

Just Filling In – It may feel as though Phil Klein spent less time on the Phillies roster than he did on the mound in Wednesday's 5-4 walk-off win over the Giants. It took the slow-paced Klein more than an hour and a half of game time to finish an unremarkable five innings on 90 pitches, eight of which the Giants connected with for hits. Of course, the game progressed for another seven innings for a season-long 12-inning, four-hour affair. Klein also walked one and allowed four to come around to score. "He did OK," manager Pete Mackanin said. "He showed some good breaking stuff. He didn't have great command, but he held them down and battled his way through it." The Phillies optioned Klein back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley following his start, almost certainly clearing way for the organization's top pitching prospect, Jake Thompson, to make his Major League debut in Los Angeles. Mackanin was noncommital, but he didn't shy away from hinting that Thompson's time was sooner rather than later. "I think that might be a good solid guess," Mackanin said before the game. "That's probably a probability." Klein received the call to start after Tuesday's IronPigs game. Mackanin didn't say to Klein if it would be strictly a spot start, but he didn't indicate it would be anything more pregame. He referenced Wei-Yin Chen's eight-inning shutout of the Phillies last season, after which he was optioned. "They just said, 'Hey, here's the ball, here's the mound. Go for it,'" Klein said. Klein was making his third career big league start. His second stint in a Major League rotation eerily mirrors his first. The Rangers, from whom the Phillies claimed Klein off waivers in June, called upon Klein to fill in for the injured Ross Detwiler in May of last year. After a promising starting debut, holding the Red Sox to one run in 5 1/3 innings, Klein imploded in his second start. The Indians scored seven runs (six earned) in two innings off him, and Klein was promptly removed from the rotation. Although Klein's third career start Wednesday was neither as good as his first nor as bad as his second, it's unlikely he'll get a fourth -- barring an unforeseen injury. After his ugly outing against Cleveland, the Rangers replaced him with a promising pitching prospect. Chi Chi Gonzalez not only took Klein's spot starts, he stole Detwiler's rotation spot, not allowing a run for his first 14 2/3 innings. Klein made three more bullpen appearances for the Rangers in 2015. Thompson has given up more than one run just once in his last seven starts at Triple-A.

Let The Call Ups Begin – Aaron Nola's season might be finished. The Phillies announced Wednesday that Nola has been placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow. Nola received a MRI exam in the morning, but Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said the injury is not serious. "I was kind of relieved," Nola said. "After hearing that, I do not need anything big time done to it or anything like that. I can just go forward, let it heal and do the rehab I need to do." The Phillies recalled Triple-A right-hander Phil Klein to pitch in Nola's place Wednesday night against the Giants at Citizens Bank Park, but Triple-A right-hander Jake Thompson is a very smart bet to join the rotation and make his Major League debut next week. Thompson is the organization's top pitching prospect and the No. 71 prospect in baseball, according to Nola's injury at least offers a potential explanation for his recent struggles. He posted a 2.65 ERA with a 0.99 WHIP and 5.67 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12 starts through June 5. He ranked 18th, eighth and fourth among 90 pitchers with 60 or more innings pitched in those categories in that stretch, respectively. He seemed like a legitimate candidate to make the National League All-Star team. But Nola has a 9.82 ERA, 2.06 WHIP and 2.57 strikeout-to-walk ratio in eight starts since. "[Pitching coach Bob] McClure's been saying that for a while, he said there's something there," Mackanin said. "You don't know if it's mechanical or what, but with the fact that he wasn't complaining about his arm, never even brought it up, never even asked for treatment, you've got to figure nothing is wrong with his arm." Nola said throughout his struggles he felt healthy. He said he first felt soreness in his elbow Thursday in his start against the Braves at Turner Field. The soreness remained through a bullpen session Sunday in Atlanta. He told the team about his elbow concerns on the bus on the way to the airport Sunday. "I hope this isn't the end," Nola said about his season. "I'm going to try everything I can to be back by the end of the year." But the Phillies will have to gauge the risk and reward of Nola pitching again this season. Generally, the rule of thumb for injured pitchers is they need the same amount of time to recover from the time they missed. So if Nola rests three weeks, he will need three weeks to get ready to pitch again. If that is the case, he would not be ready to pitch again until mid-September. "He might be shut down for the season," Mackanin said. "That will be determined after these next two weeks." Mackanin said he does not believe the Phillies did not trade right-hander Jeremy Hellickson before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline because of concerns about Nola's elbow. "I don't think they put a stop on anything," Mackanin said about the Phillies' front office. "That's the thing, if they had a real good deal for Hellickson, I'm sure they would have made it. We didn't want to lose him. But if you have the deal you can't say no to, then they would've done it. We've got pitchers we would've used." Thompson will be used next week. He certainly has earned a promotion. He is 8-0 with a 1.21 ERA in 11 starts since early June. "That's probably a probability," Mackanin said about Thompson's chances of making his big league debut next week. "Can I say that? A good, solid guess."

A Necessary Absence – The Phillies are without their closer for Wednesday's game against the Giants, but manager Pete Mackanin doesn't believe Jeanmar Gomez will miss any more than a day on the paternity list. Gomez's wife, Luisa, was set to have labor induced at 6:30 p.m. ET, about half an hour prior to Wednesday's first pitch. "I think he's naming it Pete," Mackanin joked. To take Gomez's place in the bullpen, Michael Mariot was recalled from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. Should a save situation arise, Hector Neris would fill in for the ninth inning. Neris has been the Phillies' eighth-inning option and the choice to fill in when Gomez hasn't been available. Neris has pitched the ninth four times this season, recording one save and posting a 2.25 ERA. Players can take up to three days on the paternity list, but Gomez indicated to Mackanin that he would only take one, to see the birth of his first child -- a boy, Mackanin said. Gomez is expected back in the bullpen for Thursday's series finale against the Giants before the Phillies hit the road again to Los Angeles and San Diego. Mackanin reaffirmed his commitment to the 28-year-old Gomez in the closer's role in the final two months of the season, despite Gomez set to hit free agency at the end of next season. While the organization sees Edubray Ramos as a potential high-leverage reliever, they aren't ready to throw him into the fire yet, even if just to get a look at how he handles the ninth.

Today In Phils History – On this day in 1930 the Phillies had 2 players batting over .400 for the season following Lefty O’Doul’s performance at the plate (he joined Chuck Klein) which as the 1st time since 1918 that a team had 2 players batting over .400 for the season (they both finished the season hitting in the .380’s). On the day that Dallas Green was born in 1934, Reggie Grabowski set a NL record by allowing 11 hits in an inning (the 9th) which allowed the Giants to set a MLB record by scoring 11 runs in the 9th inning (Mel Ott scored 6 runs in the game). 40 years later, Willie Montanez extended his hitting streak to 24 games in the 1st game of a double header against the Cardinals only to see it come to an end during the nightcap. With a hit off of Steve Carlton at the Vet in 1982, Joel Youngblood of the Expos became the 1st player to record a hit for 2 different teams in 2 different cities on the same day (he got a hit earlier in the day with the Mets before he was traded. In 1996, Senator Jim Bunning was inducted into the MLB Hall of Fame. 10 years later, Chase Utley’s hitting streak came to an end at 35 games (the 11th longest in MLB history).  

The Phillies are currently 50-59 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 50-61-0 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.

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