Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Phillies Display Power In Opener Against Giants

GAME RECAP: Phillies Stun Giants 13-8

The San Francisco Giants realize that, despite the disparity in their records, the Philadelphia Phillies can give anybody a rough night. Tuesday, the Giants learned just how challenging the Phillies are as they squandered a huge early lead before rising again to score five eighth-inning runs, break a tie and proceed to a 13-8 triumph. The Giants won two of three games vs. the Phillies from June 24-26, but each game was a one-run decision. This time, the Giants erased Philadelphia's 6-0 lead to take an 8-7 advantage into the bottom of the sixth. Yet the Phillies weren't intimidated as they drove Giants ace Madison Bumgarner from the game before pulling away. Philadelphia's Aaron Altherr matched a career high with five RBIs, including a two-run homer in the first inning and a run-scoring single in the second inning. He then bounced a two-run single up the middle off Sergio Romo to begin the Phillies' eighth-inning outburst, which continued with Cameron Rupp's three-run homer. "It should give us confidence," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We beat Bumgarner over there in San Francisco. Anytime you beat a classy pitcher like that, a top-notch guy, it's got to give you confidence." Led by Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt, who combined for five of San Francisco's 10 hits and six of its eight RBIs, the Giants roared back. But the Phillies began their rally in the eighth off newcomer Will Smith, who was removed after yielding Odubel Herrera's one-out infield single and Cesar Hernandez's double. Smith, acquired from the Brewers before Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline, spent most of Tuesday traveling from Milwaukee. "Nobody flies cross-country before their first outing," Smith said. "But that's not an excuse by any means. I told them I was good to go and I didn't lie to them. I felt ready. It just didn't go my way tonight."

  • Hernandez, Altherr, Maikel Franco and Rupp picked up a combined 12 hits and 12 RBIs in the victory. In addition to the homers by Altherr and Rupp, Franco hit a three-run homer in the second. "Altherr just looks good at the plate right now, and Franco, it's great to see him bust out," Mackanin said. "Good to see everybody kind of getting it together." 
  • The Phillies spotted Zach Eflin a 6-0 lead after the second inning, but he allowed a run in the fourth and five runs in the fifth to tie the game. Eflin had been pitching pretty well recently until his last two starts, allowing 13 runs in 10 innings against the Marlins and Giants. "I was just off with my command," Eflin said. "I thought I made some really good pitches in certain situations, but at the end of the day I just really have to bear down on that, I really have to."
  • "I was looking for a cutter away. I wouldn't say I was trying to hit a home run, but I had seen a lot of video and it's something you just prepare for. You know he likes his cutter so I was looking for it. I just put a good swing on it." -- Altherr, who hit a 0-1 cutter from Bumgarner for his two-run homer in the first.
  • The Phillies' 13 runs are the most they have scored in a game since scoring 14 against the Mets on Sept. 1, 2015.
  • The Phillies have dropped 10 of their past 16 games, but took Tuesday's series opener. They had scored only 45 runs over their previous 15, an average of three per game, before breaking out against Madison Bumgarner and the Giants for 13.
  • Arguably Cueto's worst start of the season came in his only other time facing the Phillies. He allowed six runs on eight hits over six innings in the same game Nola struggled in, an 8-7 Giants win.
  • The Giants made a bevy of roster moves prior to Tuesday's series opener. Trade Deadline acquisitions Will Smith and Matt Moore were added to the active roster, Matt Reynolds and Albert Suarez were optioned to Triple-A, Ehire Adrianza finished his rehab assignment and was added to the active roster and Mac Williamson was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain.

For a start, it appeared as though the Phillies had fixed Aaron Nola. Making his first start in more than two weeks on July 18, Nola shut out the Marlins for six innings, surrendering only two hits and a walk. But in two starts since, Nola had reverted back to the pitcher the Phillies skipped in the rotation heading into the All-Star break. He allowed six runs over four innings to the Pirates, then followed that with a better-looking line -- five innings, three runs -- in Atlanta but also allowed eight hits and gave up plenty of hard contact. Wednesday, Nola was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right elbow. He'll be replaced on the hill by Phil Klein, who will make his Phillies debut after being claimed off waivers from Texas on June 19. Facing Johnny Cueto (13-3, 2.63 ERA) and the Giants, Klein, 27, will make his 37th career big league appearance and third start after having gone 2-3 with a 4.80 ERA with the Rangers the past three seasons. Cueto will be looking to make it beyond the fifth for just the second time in four starts. Over his past three, one six-inning performance (one unearned run allowed) was sandwiched between two five-inning starts of four and three runs allowed. The game is available out of market on MLB.TV, currently $17.99 for the rest of the season for a limited time only.


Fan Ejected – Home-plate umpire Bob Davidson had heard enough of a boisterous fan sitting 14 rows behind the Giants' dugout. He had been screaming sexually suggestive comments at Davidson through most of the sixth inning -- his words could be heard from the pressbox -- when Davidson stopped the game, approached the fan and asked him to be removed. Phillies security came by a short time later, escorting the fan from his seat. The Phillies said the fan left on his own accord. "You could have your wife, girlfriend, kids -- they buy tickets," Davidson said. "They don't have to come here and listen to that. That's exactly what he said to throw him out. There was kids there and young girls there." Fans applauded Davidson for his efforts. "People cheered me, which is unusual in this town for me," he said.

Impressive Return – Aaron Altherr has 54 more games to make his case. His first five games will be a tough act to follow. He went 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBIs in Tuesday night's 13-8 victory over the Giants at Citizens Bank Park. He hit a two-run home run to right field in the first inning against Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. He singled and scored in the second inning and singled to center to score two runs in the eighth inning to break an 8-8 tie. "Definitely a great feeling, especially against a pitcher like Bumgarner," Altherr said. Altherr is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with two homers and eight RBIs in five games since returning from the 60-day disabled list because of a torn tendon in his left wrist. He had been a projected everyday outfielder before the injury, but he is expected to play regularly through the remainder of the season as the Phillies evaluate their outfield options for 2017. "Altherr is making a good impression again," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I love the way he plays defense. He just glides around out there. He's swinging the bat very well right now. That last at-bat he was just trying to make contact, he hit the ball up the middle and got us two big runs." Altherr showed that a little studying can pay off, too. Bumgarner threw him a first-pitch fastball in the first inning before coming back with an 0-1 cutter away. "I was looking for a cutter away," Altherr said. "I wouldn't say I was trying to hit a home run, but I had seen a lot of video and it's something you just prepare for. You know he likes his cutter so I was looking for it. I just put a good swing on it." Altherr stepped to the plate with runners on second and third and one out in the eighth. Giants right-hander Sergio Romo got Altherr into a 1-2 count when he threw him a sinker. He laced the ball up the middle for a hit to score both runners, giving the Phillies a 10-8 lead. "With two strikes you've got to find a way somehow to put the bat on the ball," Altherr said. "Thankfully, I was able to do that."

Impressive Company – He is only 23 years old, but Maikel Franco ascended into the ranks of Scott Rolen and Mike Schmidt, fittingly, in a 13-8 slugfest of a win over the Giants on Tuesday. In 133 years of Phillies baseball, 28 times has their third baseman hit at least 20 home runs in a season. Schmidt did it 13 times. Rolen five times. And Franco once. Rolen and Dick Allen are the only two to do it as young as Franco. Allen left the yard 20 or more times as a 22- and 23-year-old, then twice more. Rolen's five came consecutively, from his age 22 to 26 seasons. His power peaked in Philadelphia at the same age Franco is now: 23, when Rolen hit 31 jacks. Franco is on pace for 30 this season. "I feel pretty good about that," Franco said. "I get excited. I understand the situation, but I'm just coming in every day and doing everything I can do." The milestone night couldn't have come in a better fashion. Not only did Franco put his 20th ball over the wall, he reached base five times in a 4-for-4, four-RBI performance. It was the first time Franco had ever reached base five times in a game. With Franco hitting third, Aaron Altherr second and Cesar Hernandez leading off, the trio combined to go 11-for-14 and drove in nine of the Phillies' 13 runs. "Especially at the top of the lineup, it's huge, being the tablesetters to get on base and drive runs in," said Altherr, who went 3-for-5 with five RBIs himself. "Being a young team, we feed off all the energy we can get," Altherr continued. "We're just going to keep getting better and better as we play with each other more." Altherr said he could definitely envision a top third of the order like Tuesday night's -- a top of the order that can grow together. Altherr is 25, Hernandez is 26. And don't forget about Odubel Herrera, who has helped set the table all season and is 24 years old. Pinch-hitting, he dove into first to beat out a single in the eighth. But Franco has always been the centerpiece of the rebuild. His top-prospect status brought a glimmer of hope to a dim season when he was called up last year. In his first full Major League season, despite some ups and downs, he is by and large living up to the hype. "Franco, it's great to see him bust out after I think he was 0-for-20 in his last 20 at-bats to get four hits, hit the home run," manager Pete Mackanin said. "It's good to see everyone kind of get it together." The latest slump Franco had been mired in -- it was 0-for-17, not 0-for-20, but also 8-for-his-last-52 -- coincided with yet another downturn for the Phillies offense. It was averaging just three runs a game over its past 15 before Tuesday's 13-run outburst. For Franco, he said he didn't change anything. Some nights the ball just looks like a beach ball. On Tuesday, it just happened to be Madison Bumgarner's -- he of the second-leading ERA in baseball, behind only Clayton Kershaw -- whose pitches were enlarged to practically the entire Phillies order.

Happy To Stay – Jeremy Hellickson heard he could be traded for weeks, but Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline passed without a peep from the Phillies. Hellickson is expected to remain with the Phillies through the remainder of the season. There is a small possibility he is traded before the Aug. 31 waiver deadline, but that will be difficult. First, there is almost no chance he clears waivers. He is owed about $2.3 million the remainder of the season, which is a bargain for a contender. Second, if he is claimed, the Phillies can trade him only to the first team on the priority list that claimed him. If they can't complete a deal with that team, they must revoke his waivers and he is no longer tradeable. "I'm happy to be here, but a little surprised," Hellickson said before Tuesday's series opener against the Giants at AT&T Park. "I'm definitely happy it's over. I don't want to say it's tough, but it's not really something you want to go through." The Phillies took a risk not trading Hellickson, who is a free agent after the season. But now that he is here, they are expected to make him a qualifying offer following the season, which essentially is a one-year contract worth about $16.5 million. The Phillies are betting he will reject the offer and sign a multiyear contract elsewhere. If he does, the Phillies will receive a compensatory pick in the 2017 Draft. But those plans could be scuttled if Hellickson is injured in the final two months or struggles and he surprisingly accepts it. And while a Draft pick between the first and second rounds certainly is valuable, it is far more of a gamble than acquiring a prospect or two before the Trade Deadline. Hellickson, who texted a bit with his agent, Scott Boras, early Monday, said he has not given the qualifying offer much thought. "I tried to just enjoy my off-day yesterday and not really think about too much," he said.

Auditions Coming Soon – The Phillies have two more months of baseball before they split for the winter. Will they get a look at Triple-A Lehigh Valley right-hander Jake Thompson before then? How about outfielder Nick Williams and shortstop J.P. Crawford? They are three of the top prospects in Major League Baseball, according to "I think there's a decent chance that we will see another promotion of a first-time big leaguer before the season is out," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "Whether that is in August or September -- there's not a huge separator for me in what month that is. I suspect we will have another somewhat notable promotion before the season is up." If just one of those top prospects is promoted, Thompson seems to be the best bet. He has pitched brilliantly. He is 11-5 with a 2.50 ERA in 21 starts. He is 8-0 with a 1.21 ERA in his last 11 starts. The Phillies are monitoring the innings of Vince Velasquez, and Aaron Nola has struggled since June, so if the Phils decide to cut back their workload, Thompson could slide in. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin and Klentak also said Tuesday they are open to the possibility of a six-man rotation at some point. Williams and Crawford could be on different schedules than Thompson. Williams is hitting .286 with 27 doubles, five triples, 11 home runs, 56 RBIs and a .784 OPS in 412 plate appearances. He could stand to cut down his strikeouts and walk more. Crawford is hitting .260 with nine doubles, one triple, three home runs, 24 RBIs and a .683 OPS in 282 plate appearances. He has hit .307 with a .793 OPS in his last 42 games, but he remains one of the youngest players in the International League. If the Phillies do not promote Crawford, 21, before the end of the season, it would allow them to protect one more player in December's Rule 5 Draft, which could be valuable to a team with one of the better farm systems in baseball. Crawford does not need to be protected. "We will promote young players to the big leagues when those young players are ready to be promoted to the big leagues," Klentak said. "And if we need to create room for them, we will do so. I have also been on record that we don't want players to come up to the big leagues only having to be sent back. So with our inactivity at the Trade Deadline, I don't know if that by itself sets back the timeline for any potential promotion. I really don't." Klentak believes the fact Lehigh Valley is in a playoff race is beneficial to the Phillies' top prospects. "I don't care what level it is -- that's an important developmental step," he said. "Right now we're happy with where those guys are, we're happy with the way that they're playing and we'll see them here soon enough. I'm sure of that."

Today In Phils History – By playing in his 479th straight game in 1919, Fred Luderus sets the new MLB record and eventually stretched it to 533 games. Tony Taylor stole home against the Giants on this day in 1960 which would be the 1st of 6 such swipes that season. However, 4 years later, it was Johnny Callison who appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated. In 1976, the Phillies and Cubs split a double header at Wrigley Field in an astounding 3 hours and 51 minutes with Jim Kaat taking the loss in game 1 and Steve Carlton recording the win in game 2. Chuck Klein was finally industed into the MLB Hall of Fame on this day in 1980 with his grandnephew representing the great slugger. 10 years later, on the same day that the Phillies acquired Dale Murphy from the Braves (giving up Jeff Parrett) Sil Campusano broke up Doug Drabek’s no hitter with 1 out in the bottom of the 9th but Pittsburgh still goes on to complete the 11-0 shutout. It is that time of year and on this day the Phillies lost Rico Brogna (2000) and Joe Blanton (2012).

The Phillies are currently 49-59 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 38-64-0 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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