Sunday, August 21, 2016

Phillies Bounce Back To Even Series

GAME RECAP: Phils Clip Cards 4-2

The Cardinals needed two home runs Saturday against the Phillies to set a Major League record. But it was the Phillies who used a pair of solo shots to prevail in their 4-2 win at Citizens Bank Park. Cesar Hernandez roped his first career leadoff home run into the right-field seats, and Aaron Altherr added another in the sixth. "Maybe Cesar will become a power hitter," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin joked afterward. The Cardinals' two runs came on a Jeremy Hazelbaker shot in the third that scored starter Luke Weaver, who collected his first two Major League hits with a pair of singles. Had another Cardinal gone yard, they would have set a record with 10 straight multi-homer games. The Cardinals' loss snapped a five-game winning streak. "I think there's positives and negatives," Weaver said. "I got in on their bats that didn't go my way, that dropped in. But they also did a good job of fouling off pitches and getting my pitch count up. But I think some positives were just staying with those at-bats and making the pitch to get strikeouts. When you throw in the zone and you do it a lot, you're gonna end up with some hard-hit balls." Weaver struck out six and walked none over five innings, but he left the game down 3-2. He was outmatched by seven strong innings from Phillies starter Jeremy Hellickson. In three starts since the Phillies decided to hold onto him at the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Hellickson has tossed 18 2/3 innings and posted a 2.89 ERA. He added eight strikeouts Saturday night. With the Pirates' loss in Miami, the Cardinals held onto their two-game lead over the Bucs for the second National League Wild Card spot. But Miami overtook Pittsburgh in the standings and now trails the Cardinals by only 1 1/2 games.

  • Hernandez has been on a tear since June, and he continued to swing a hot bat against the Cardinals. To go with his homer, he doubled and scored in the fifth to give the Phillies a one-run lead and finished a triple shy of the cycle. Hernandez has hit .359 (66-for-184) with six doubles, five triples, two home runs, 13 RBIs and 24 walks in his last 50 games. "I'm just focusing a little bit," Hernandez said about his past 50 games. "I'm trying to see as many pitches as I can see, and that's it."
  • Hellickson left his Aug. 10 start against the Dodgers after the fifth inning because he tweaked his back. The Phillies pushed his next start back three days, but he proved Saturday he is fine. He allowed seven hits, two runs, one walk and eight strikeouts in seven innings, making it the first time a Phillies starter had pitched seven innings in a game since Jerad Eickhoff on July 26. "I was [aware of it]," Hellickson said of the starters' streak. "I heard it and read it. I don't know about the rest of the guys. It's really nothing we think about, though. It was good to save the bullpen a little bit tonight." 
  • "It was deja vu in that ninth inning. But it turned out a little differently." -- Mackanin, on Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez facing Jedd Gyorko with a runner on base in the ninth. Gyorko hit a game-tying homer in the ninth Friday, but he grounded into a game-ending double play Saturday.
  • The Phillies have homered in 14 consecutive games, which is their longest streak since they homered in 14 straight games from May 27-June 9, 2013. Entering the game, the Phillies ranked 10th in the big leagues with 19 homers since Aug. 5.

Right-hander Vince Velasquez (8-5, 4.14 ERA) pitches the series finale against the Cardinals on Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. Velasquez was hit hard his past two starts against the Dodgers, allowing 14 earned runs in just 10 1/3 innings.


Cesar’s Future? – Has Cesar Hernandez answered any questions about himself over the past several weeks? He went 3-for-4 in Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. He hit his first career leadoff home run and doubled and scored in the fifth to give the Phillies a 3-2 lead. Since Phillies manager Pete Mackanin benched him for two games in June, Hernandez has hit .359 (66-for-184) with six doubles, five triples, two home runs, 14 RBIs, 24 walks and a .911 OPS in 50 games. Hernandez is easily on pace to have the best season of his four-year career. But is this run establishing himself as the Phillies' second baseman of the future? "I never think about that," said Hernandez, who was also involved in turning three double plays Saturday. "I go year by year. If it happens, good." Hernandez certainly is talented offensively, but he also has driven his managers and coaches crazy at times with too many mental mistakes on the field. It is why some believe Freddy Galvis could move from shortstop to second base whenever the organization deems its top prospect, J.P. Crawford -- who is at Triple-A Lehigh Valley -- ready to play every day in the big leagues. "Every player has warts, some have more than others," Mackanin said. "[Hernandez] has got some areas to work on, and that's one of them. Certainly he's got ability and tools to help you win, especially if he's going to continue to hit the way he's been hitting and play defense." Galvis is hitting just .235 with 20 doubles, three triples, 12 home runs, 50 RBIs and a .638 OPS, so if Hernandez keeps his hot streak going, it will be difficult not to play him, even if that means the occasional mental error. "We try to stay away from that," Mackanin said about the futures of Galvis and Hernandez. "I had a meeting with him and Freddy early in the season, just told them to go do what they can do and have the best year that they can -- not to worry about it, compete on a daily basis and let the cards fall where they may." Hernandez's season turned for the better after being benched two consecutive games against the Twins at Target Field in late June. The Phillies had been trying to get Hernandez to take a different approach at the plate -- specifically, to stop upper cutting at the ball. Hernandez didn't listen, so Phillies bench coach Larry Bowa bluntly told Hernandez that he was not playing because he wasn't changing, and he was going to stay on the bench if he didn't start. "He's leveled off his swing," Mackanin said. "I remember that day," Hernandez said. "I worked with them a lot, and it worked."

Back On The Mound – Jeremy Hellickson's back is just fine. Hellickson, who left his Aug. 10 start against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium after he tweaked his back, allowed two runs in seven innings in Saturday night's 4-2 victory over the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. It was the first time a Phillies starter pitched seven or more innings since Jerad Eickhoff pitched seven against the Marlins on July 26, snapping the 21-game streak. The Phillies' rotation didn't pitch six innings in 15 of those games. "I was [aware of it]," Hellickson said of the streak. "I heard it and read it, I don't know about the rest of the guys. It's really nothing we think about, though. It was good to save the bullpen a little bit tonight." He said after his outing against the Dodgers that he did not expect to miss a start, although the Phillies pushed back his next scheduled start from Wednesday to Saturday. "It was nice to have a few days to let it heal, but it really wasn't bothering me except for the day after," Hellickson said. But other than Jeremy Hazelbaker's pop fly that carried just behind the left-field wall in the third inning for a game-tying two-run homer, Hellickson cruised. He retired 13 of the final 17 batters he faced. "I think the biggest thing was just getting ahead," Hellickson said. "It's an aggressive lineup."

Today In Phils History – Chief Bender threw a 1 hit shutout against the Cubs in 1917. 2 years later, Phillies catcher John Adams tied a NL rookie record by recording 7 assists in a game. The Phillies were forced to forfeit a game against the Giants at Shibe Park in 1949 when the crowd continued to hurl debris on the field following a call by the umpires that Richie Ashburn had trapped a line drive (it was the 1st MLB forfeit in 7 years). Steve Carlton’s 15 game personal win streak was snapped on this day in 1972 when he lost 2-1 to Phil Neikro and the Braves. The Phillies parted ways with Sparky Lyle on this day in 1982 when they sold him to the White Sox. The Phillies came back from a 10 run deficit on this day in 1990 when they scored 2 runs in the 8th and 9 in the 9th. John Kruk was hit for the 1st time in his (at the time 2,500 at bat MLB) career on this day in 1991 when he failed to get out of the way of a Randy Tomlin pitch.  

The Phillies are currently 58-66 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 55-53-0 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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