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.

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