Saturday, August 20, 2016

Phillies Fall To Cardinals In Extra Innings

GAME RECAP: Cards Outlast Phils 4-3

Randal Grichuk does not want to get sent back to the Minors -- and he's playing like it. Jhonny Peralta led off the 11th inning by hammering a double into left. An out later, Grichuk followed with a two-bagger of his own, driving home Peralta and giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead that St. Louis top prospect -- per -- Alex Reyes closed out in the bottom half of the inning on Friday at Citizens Bank Park, earning his first career save. The win was the Cardinals' fifth in a row and gave them a two-game lead over Pittsburgh for the second National League Wild Card spot. The double was Grichuk's third hit of the game. He finished a triple shy of the cycle after homering down the left-field line in the second and adding a single in the fifth. He's hit safely in all seven games he's played in since being recalled from Triple-A Memphis, driving in nine in that span. "We all know what he's capable of doing," Cardinals second baseman Jedd Gyorko said. "He's just got to get a little more consistent. As far as talent or stuff like that, you're not going to find someone with more talent than what he's got. He's just going to keep getting better and better. He's gonna be a guy we rely on going down the stretch here." Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez allowed a two-run, game-tying blast off the bat of Gyorko in the ninth inning to blow his fourth save of the year and erase a stellar outing from Adam Morgan, who outdueled Adam Wainwright, tossing six innings of one-run ball. Odubel Herrera and Freddy Galvis led off the sixth with back-to-back blasts to open up a 3-1 Phillies lead off Wainwright. The dingers followed Wainwright's complaint about the mound condition after he slipped delivering a pitch to Herrera. He wasn't the same after the grounds crew manicured the mound. After the homers, Wainwright issued walks to Aaron Altherr and Ryan Howard but he escaped, erasing Altherr on a double play and Howard on a caught-stealing. "We just didn't capitalize on scoring opportunities," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We had our chances. A man on third base with less than two outs twice. We couldn't get him in. We couldn't make contact." Overcoming home runs and mound troubles, Wainwright tossed his first quality start after four tries. He got back on track with six innings of three-run ball against the Phillies after having given up six and seven runs, respectively, in his last two starts. "I'm still not where I want to be," Wainwright said. "I'm patiently, slash, impatiently waiting on my good stuff to come. I know it will come. But today was significantly better than last time out for sure."

  • Mackanin said before the game that Morgan "has to start doing something" to keep a job in the big leagues, pointing to his 1-7 record and 6.62 ERA heading into the game. Morgan delivered, and he allowed two or fewer runs in six or more innings for the first time in nine starts, dating to May 21 against Atlanta. "I don't really want to look at it that way," Morgan said, asked if he considers these final few weeks make-or-break for him. "I just want to take advantage of the opportunity. I feel like once you start looking back, like, 'Oh, gosh, I've really got to do good here to stay in the big leagues,' I feel like the mind wanders. It's pretty simple. I'm trying to take advantage of the opportunity and give the team a chance to win every time I go out." 
  • Gomez has been one of the Phillies' best stories of the season, beginning the season as a middle reliever only to become their closer in early April. He entered the game having saved 32 games in 35 opportunities, but he could not put away Gyorko in an eight pitch at-bat in the ninth. "He hung a split to Gyorko," Mackanin said. "It was center cut. He's been so good for us this whole year. He's been very good for us. I can't fault him."
  • Dating back to Aug. 5, the Phillies have homered in 13 consecutive games for the first time since homering in 14 straight games from May 27-June 9, 2013. The team has 19 homers in those 13 games.
  • Tommy Joseph, pinch-hitting for Howard, ripped a ball into the left-center-field gap off Kevin Siegrist in the eighth inning and stretched a single into a double, at least initially, after he was called safe on Grichuk's throw. The Cardinals challenged, and after a two-and-a-half minute review, the call was overturned. "It was so close," Joseph said. "I felt myself hit the bag with Kolten [Wong] tagging right away. That was a tough play."
  • Matheny challenged for a second time in the ninth inning on a tailor-made double-play ball. The Phillies didn't turn two, but Matheny challenged that Emmanuel Burriss's foot came off second. It did not, the umpires confirmed.
  • The Phillies challenged a call that Stephen Piscotty was hit by a pitch in the 10th inning, but the replay official confirmed the call.

Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (9-7, 3.65 ERA) returns to the mound Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET against the Cardinals after tweaking his back Aug. 10 at Dodger Stadium. Hellickson had been scheduled to pitch this Wednesday against the Dodgers in Philadelphia, but the Phillies pushed back his start a few days to make sure his back was healthy. He said it is.


Making His Case – Pete Mackanin did not mince words Friday afternoon when asked if Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan needed to prove he belongs in the big leagues. "That might be a question that doesn't need to be asked," the manager said. "Darn right, he has to do something." Mackanin pointed to Morgan's 1-7 record and 6.62 ERA entering Friday night's 4-3 loss in 11 innings to the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park. Morgan lost a Spring Training competition to be the team's fifth starter, but when he was promoted in April to replace Charlie Morton, who suffered a season-ending groin injury, he struggled. He recently rejoined the rotation to replace Zach Eflin, who had season-ending knee surgery Friday. "He has to start doing something," Mackanin said. "One and seven with a six ERA is not good. I think he's better than that, but he has to start showing it. It's cut and dried." Morgan delivered against the Cardinals and stood in line for the win until Jeanmar Gomez blew his fourth save of the season in the ninth. Morgan allowed five hits, one run, two walks and struck out three in six-plus innings. "I was thrilled about the way Morgan pitched," Mackanin said afterward. "He looked almost masterful with his changeup, keeping them off balance." It was the first time since May 21 that Morgan allowed two or fewer runs in six or more innings, when he allowed two runs in six innings against the Braves. He went 0-5 with a 7.65 ERA in eight starts in between. "I don't really want to look at it that way," Morgan said, asked if he considers these final few weeks make-or-break for him. "I just want to take advantage of the opportunity. I feel like once you start looking back, like, 'Oh, gosh, I've really got to do good here to stay in the big leagues,' I feel like the mind wanders. It's pretty simple. I'm trying to take advantage of the opportunity and give the team a chance to win every time I go out."

Unable To Close The Door – Jeanmar Gomez has been one of the Phillies' best stories this season. He entered the year as a middle reliever and only out of desperation became the team's closer in early April. He took to the job surprisingly well and entered Friday night's 4-3 loss in 11 innings to the Cardinals at Citizens Bank Park having saved 32 games in 35 opportunities. But Gomez blew his fourth save in the ninth inning when Cardinals shortstop Jedd Gyorko hit a game-tying, two-run home run to left field. Gyorko fouled off three consecutive pitches before hitting the eighth pitch from Gomez -- an 86-mph splitter -- out of the park. Gomez left the clubhouse immediately after the game, which has happened before following blown saves, so he could not discuss Gyorko's at-bat. "He hung a split to Gyorko," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "It was center cut. He's been so good for us this whole year. He's been very good for us. I can't fault him." Gomez certainly has been solid this season, but his long-term future as the Phillies' closer will be interesting to watch. One reason the Phillies received little to no interest in him before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline -- despite numerous teams needing bullpen help -- is that he does not miss enough bats. Teams love power arms in the bullpen, but Gomez entered the game getting swings and misses on only 6.8 percent of his pitches, which ranked 215th out of 228 pitchers who have thrown 50 or more innings this season, according to FanGraphs. His 5.98 strikeouts-per-nine innings average ranked 207th. That argument has many people thinking setup man Hector Neris could be the Phillies' closer at some point. Neris gets swings and misses on 15.6 percent of his pitches, which ranked seventh in baseball. He averages 11.26 strikeouts per nine innings, which ranked 14th. Neris struck out Tommy Pham on three pitches to start the eighth. Stephen Piscotty grounded out on the first pitch for the second out, and Matt Carpenter flied out on the first pitch for the third out to end the inning. Five pitches, three outs. Impressive. "Neris threw a heck of a good inning," Mackanin said. They needed another one in the ninth.

Tattered Rotation – The Phillies will enter the offseason hoping that two of their top young pitchers will be healthy and ready to pitch by Spring Training. The team announced Friday afternoon that right-hander Zach Eflin had season-ending surgery to repair the patellar tendon in his right knee. He will be immobilized for the next six weeks, which will allow a stress fracture in his right foot to heal. Eflin is expected to have the same surgery on his left knee in six weeks. "It seems like that's where it's headed," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said about the second surgery. "If everything proceeds according to plan, he should be no problem for Spring Training. We'll see. "The hope here is that it's going to alleviate the problem and that he's not going to have to deal with it. And in just talking candidly with Zach last night, while not excited to undergo the knife today, he was pretty excited about the possibility of coming to Spring Training next year pain-free for the first time in his life." Eflin, 22, said he has had knee problems since he was 10 or 11 years old, a problem the Phillies said they have known since they acquired him from the Dodgers in December 2014 in the Jimmy Rollins trade. But they also said they also did not believe two knee surgeries were an eventuality. "There was not an imminent surgery looming when we talked about Zach Eflin in Spring Training, for example," Klentak said. "But we know that it's something he's battled and knew it was a possibility that one day this would come, but didn't know if or when, specifically." Before the Phillies placed Eflin on the 60-day disabled list, they placed right-hander Aaron Nola on the 60-day DL on Wednesday because of a low grade sprain of his UCL and a low grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon. He received a PRP injection into the elbow Monday. Nola will not throw for four weeks. The Phillies hope to see improvement at that time. They said surgery for Nola is not a consideration at this point. "Would we like all these guys to pitch a full season and reach certain benchmarks and accomplish all their goals? Well, yeah," Klentak said. "We want that for all of our players. A lot of our guys have made a lot of progress this year. Injuries to pitchers, that's part of how baseball works." The Phillies acquired Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton last winter to stabilize an inexperienced rotation. Hellickson could return next season, if the Phillies make him a qualifying offer and he surprises them and accepts it. But even if Hellickson returns, it seems likely the Phillies will acquire another veteran starter in the offseason. "I think that's the plan," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I think that's what we have to do. We have to make at least some progress for next year and you know, the younger guys, they have to do something to get promoted. We're not going to run guys up here if we don't think they're ready. So it's going to be interesting to see what happens over the winter and then what happens in the spring." Eflin went 3-5 with a 5.54 ERA in 11 starts. He got hit hard in his big league debut against the Blue Jays in June. He posted a 2.08 ERA in seven consecutive starts from June 19-July 22 before posting a 13.85 ERA in his final three starts. "I'm not overly concerned about Nola ,and I'm not concerned about Eflin, because he's had that for a long time, and I think with it behind him now and getting it taken care of, he's got to feel good about that," Mackanin said. "I expect him to be 100 percent, probably better than this year. Nola, time will tell. Perhaps the time off will really help him."

Likely To Stay – Chase Utley enjoyed an unforgettable homecoming this week at Citizens Bank Park, and the way Ryan Howard has played lately, he could receive an even warmer farewell in a few weeks, too. Howard opened the season in a platoon with Darin Ruf, but he moved into a reserve role following the arrival of Tommy Joseph in May. Howard hit .148 with 11 home runs, 25 RBIs and a .555 OPS in 208 plate appearances through July 1, but he has hit .338 with eight home runs, 18 RBIs and a 1.116 OPS in 71 plate appearances since. "If he keeps hitting like he's hitting, somebody's going to want him," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I'm happy for him. I like him. I never expected Howie to be my best friend while he was going through [the benching]. It's not fun doing that kind of thing, but the bottom line is I pull for him. He's a great guy. I'd like to see him succeed and go on and play as long as he wants to play. I'm hoping it works for him." Howard was a topic of conversation Friday after Major League Baseball cleared him and Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman of any wrongdoing following an investigation of the Al Jazeera documentary "The Dark Side" that claimed in December that Howard and Zimmerman took performance-enhancing drugs. "I'm happy it's over," Howard said. "It's something that weighs on you, when you get stuff like that. I'm happy to put it behind me and keep going." But Howard, despite his recent play, is expected to finish the season with the Phillies. The Phillies might see more value in having the iconic first baseman finish the year with them and continue to mentor the team's young players than give him to a contender for a miniscule return. That said, the Phillies are expected to exercise the $10 million buyout on Howard's $25 million club option for next season. "Until somebody is not in our uniform, I always expect they're going to be here the next day," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. Like Mackanin, Klentak also is happy to see Howard turn around his season. "I know especially early in the year, it was a trying year for him," Klentak said. "To see the way that he has handled all of that, and continued to grind, continued to work hard and to earn the playing time and now to be performing as well as he is for the last month or so, it's a really good story. If this is in fact Ryan's last year in Philadelphia, he's helping to write a nice end to it."

Welcome Back – Infielder Emmanuel Burriss rejoined the Phillies on Friday after the team optioned Taylor Featherston to Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Phillies made room for Burriss on the 40-man roster when they placed Zach Eflin on the 60-day disabled list following surgery on his right knee. Featherston hit .115 (3-for-26) with one double, one RBI, two walks and 11 strikeouts in 19 games with Philadelphia. Burriss hit .121 (4-for-33) with one double, one triple, one walk and seven strikeouts in 27 games earlier this season. Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez did not start for the second consecutive game after fouling a ball off his foot earlier this week. "We did give him an X-ray on the foot just to rule out any fractures, and there are no fractures," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. "He should be available if we need him, we're just trying to give him some extra rest."

Today In Phils History – The Phillies welcomed back George McQuillan on this day in 1915. In 1951, Richie Ashburn recorded 8 hits in a double header (still the last Phillie to accomplish the feat). 4 years later, following a complete game shutout the day before, the Phillies brought in Robin Roberts in the 9th inning to face Dodgers pinch hitting pitcher Don Newcombe. The Phillies snapped a 23 game losing streak with a win over the Braves on this day in 1961. The Phillies picked up, via trade, Al Oliver on this day in 1984. 2 years later, Juan Samuel became the second player in franchise history to score the only run in an extra inning game via homerun when he took that night’s starter Mike Krukow deep in the 10th.

The Phillies are currently 57-66 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 49-57-1 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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