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.

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