Thursday, August 18, 2016

Phillies Pitchers Continue To Struggle Against Dodgers

GAME RECAP: Dodgers Down Phillies 7-2

Chase Utley had no home runs, grand slams or curtain calls on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park. But the Dodgers still rolled to a 7-2 win over the Phillies -- extending their lead in the National League West to 1 1/2 games over the Giants. Adrian Gonzalez hit a three-run homer to right field in the fourth inning and a two-run blast to right in the seventh to lead the way. Justin Turner added a two-run homer to left-center in the fifth. "The length of the lineup is impressive right now," Turner said. "We're a tough lineup to pitch to one through eight. Anyone can hit a ball over the fence and do some damage. It's fun going up there knowing you can hang a crooked number every inning." The Dodgers have scored 22 runs in the first two games of this series. They've done so on seven home runs, including two-homer games from Utley on Tuesday and Gonzalez on Wednesday. "Adrian's been under the radar," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "But tonight, huge night. Two homers, drove in five. … Good things are happening." The Dodgers also worked out of a jam in the sixth, when the Phillies loaded the bases with none out. Left-hander Grant Dayton got three consecutive flyouts to end the inning. Right-hander Jake Thompson pitched just five innings as Phillies starters have logged fewer than six innings in eight consecutive games, tying a franchise record. "Just kind of lost the feel for working down in the zone and both sides of the plate," Thompson said. "That's not a good problem to have against those guys."

  • Thompson threw first-pitch strikes to just 10 of the 24 batters he faced, which tells the story of his night. He allowed five hits, five runs, four walks and two home runs as he fell to 1-2 with an 8.79 ERA in his first three big league starts. "Young pitchers tend to overthrow and try to make perfect pitches," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Once you gain that poise and composure, you start understanding how important it is to locate those pitches. It's hard to make the perfect pitch."
  • The rookie hit his 16th homer, a solo shot into the upper deck in left field in the sixth. Phillies first basemen have 31 homers this season, which is tied with the Indians for the most in baseball. "Tommy hit that ball in the upper deck, which was nice to see," Mackanin said. "I wish the bases were loaded on that at the time. We swung the bats well. We just didn't come through in the clutch."
  • "It was a baserunning mistake. If you're on third base and you're not going to go because it would have been too close ... you stay heads up and the minute you see that ball go to second base, you score. He just shut it down a little bit early." --Mackanin, on Franco not scoring on a flyout to right in the sixth, when Dodgers right fielder Reddick threw to second on the play.
  • Cesar Hernandez has reached base safely in 23 consecutive games. He has hit .348 with a .464 on-base percentage in that stretch. It is the longest on-base streak by a Phillies player since Darin Ruf reached safely in 33 games from Sept. 25, 2012, to Aug. 6, 2013.
  • The Phillies challenged a call with two out in the ninth inning, when Odubel Herrera appeared to beat a throw to first from Utley. First-base umpire Jerry Meals had ruled Herrera out, but the call was overturned after a brief review.
  • Jake Thompson was unable to complete six innings on Wednesday and the Phillies tied a franchise record. It was the eighth consecutive game their starter didn't pitch six innings and the first time it's happened since 1999.
  • Cesar Hernandez has reached safely in 23 straight games for the longest streak by a Phillies hitter this season. Peter Bourjos reached safely in 22 straight games from June 16 to July 15. Over the streak, Hernandez is hitting .356 (32-for-90), including his first home run of the stretch on Tuesday.
  • Stripling has had quite a bit more success in his limited action out of the bullpen. He made three long-relief appearances in July, posting a 1.54 ERA over 11 2/3 innings. In his 10 starts, Stripling has a 4.61 ERA.

Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling will square off against Phillies righty Jerad Eickhoff on Thursday in the finale of a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies should be happy to see the Dodgers leave town, as they've managed just one win in five games against Los Angeles this season. Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley likely won't harbor similar feelings. He has mashed against his former team since homering in his first at-bat against the Phillies in Los Angeles. In his return to Philadelphia, Utley hit two home runs, including a grand slam, to cap an eight-run seventh inning on Tuesday night. Utley and Frank Thomas are the only players to homer twice in their first games back in a city where they previously hit 200 or more home runs. Thursday's finale will be the sixth and final meeting between the clubs this season. The Dodgers have taken full advantage of a rebuilding Phillies club since its last postseason appearance in 2011. Los Angeles has won 12 of its 15 games at Citizens Bank Park dating to the start of 2012. Additionally, the Phillies have dropped 10 of their last 13 to the Dodgers and six of their last seven. Stripling (3-4, 4.07 ERA) will make his third start since transitioning from the bullpen back into the rotation. Eickhoff (8-12, 3.82) shut out the Rockies for five innings, but gave up three runs in a sixth inning where he only recorded two outs in his last start.


Rotational Shortcomings – Phillies manager Pete Mackanin answered a question about his bullpen on Wednesday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park, when he quickly segued into a discussion about the rotation. "We just need our starters to get out of that rut where we're not getting six, seven, eight innings," he said before a 7-2 loss to the Dodgers. "We're trying to develop nine-inning pitchers. But it has not happened like the Phillies had hoped, particularly lately. Rookie Jake Thompson yielded five hits, five runs, four walks and two home runs in five innings in his third big league start. He threw first-pitch strikes to just 10 of 24 batters as he fell to 1-2 with an 8.79 ERA. "He's 22 years old and made some mistakes," Mackanin said of the Phillies' No. 5prospect. "The interesting thing is that he doesn't walk that many people, but he's got nine walks in [14 1/3] innings. I attribute that to the fact he's 22 years old and his first go around at the big league level. Pitching is all about repeating your mechanics and making good pitches. In time, he'll get there." Mackanin said Thompson simply might be trying to impress too much, trying to follow up an impressive run at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, where he went 8-0 with a 1.21 ERA in his final 11 starts with the IronPigs. "I wouldn't say I'm trying to impress," Thompson said. "I'm just trying to get outs regardless of who I'm facing. Just trying to be too fine, falling behind, especially to those guys in the middle of the lineup. That's a terrible place to be." Phillies starters have pitched fewer than six innings in eight consecutive games, tying a franchise record last done in 1999. They also have not thrown seven or more innings in a game since July 26 in Miami, when Jerad Eickhoff gave up one run in seven innings. That is 19 consecutive games without a starter pitching seven innings. Phillies starters have a 7.05 ERA in that stretch, falling short of logging six innings 16 times. "We have to get it going and get back on track and pounding the strike zone, getting ahead early and running the counts deep, and getting outs early in the counts," Mackanin said. The Phillies' rotation looked pretty good early in the season, but the past few weeks have been quite a contrast. Aaron Nola will finish the season on the 60-day disabled list with an injured right elbow. Zach Eflin might not pitch again this season because of knee issues. Vince Velasquez has struggled recently, posting a 7.24 ERA in his last five starts. Thompson, who is the No. 67 overall prospect according to, has not pitched more than five innings in his three starts. "Mentally I'm fine," Thompson said. "It's kind of how pitching goes. Every now and then you struggle with stuff. I dealt with it in Lehigh. I had a terrible first month of the season, partially due to the same thing -- erratic fastball command. We'll get in the bullpen and get it ironed out."

Nola Done – Aaron Nola's season is finished. The Phillies announced on Wednesday they've placed Nola on the 60-day disabled list with an injured right elbow to make room on the 40-man roster for right-hander Frank Herrmann. The Phils promoted Herrmann from Triple-A Lehigh Valley to replace left-hander Elvis Araujo, who was optioned to the IronPigs. "I'm pretty confident right now that everything is going to heal correctly, and by Spring Training, I should be good to go," Nola said. But Nola's recovery is not entirely certain. Dr. James Andrews examined Nola on Monday in Alabama. The righty has a low-grade sprain of his UCL and a low-grade strain of his flexor pronator tendon. "At this time nobody is talking about surgery," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. Nola also received a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection on Monday, and he will not throw for four weeks to allow the PRP injection to work. "We'll ramp him back up at that point to see how he responds," Klentak said. If everything goes well, Nola is expected to be ready by Spring Training. If he does not respond, what is the next step? "We haven't gone down that road yet," Klentak said. "Right now, nobody is suggesting that surgery is the way to go on this, and we feel good about the fact that there's a consensus among all the doctors that have seen him." Nola finished 6-9 with a 4.78 ERA in 20 starts this season, and he went 1-5 with a 9.82 ERA in his final eight starts. Interestingly, Nola said he does not think the injured elbow had much to do with his recent struggles. "I think it was unrelated," Nola said. "Before the last game, everything felt good. My arm felt good. I don't think this had to do with any of the previous starts before then. Just overall my body felt really good leading up to that. It was just something that happened. ... I had some real bumps in the road there. But I want to learn from those, I want to learn from the challenges I had. The experiences that didn't go well, I want to learn from them and kind of build on those." The Phillies have used this season to look at their young starters. The results have been mixed. Jerad Eickhoff has been steady, but Nola struggled mightily before landing on the DL. Zach Eflin has patellar tendinopathy in his knees and it is unclear if he will pitch again this season. His results have varied. Vince Velasquez dominated early, but he has a 7.24 ERA in his last five starts and has struggled recently to pitch deep into games. Velasquez's workload is being monitored closely. He said he could make "three or four more starts" before the end of the season. Klentak said the Phillies do not have a specific day targeted as his final start. "More than anything it reinforces the position that we've taken for most of the last year about the importance of starting pitching depth," Klentak said about the rotation's performance. "For four months, this team's starting rotation was about as healthy as any starting rotation in baseball, and for the last two, three weeks it's been something less than that. That's kind of the nature of our game." Expect the Phillies to make a qualifying offer to Jeremy Hellickson after the season. If he accepts, they will have at least one veteran in the rotation. If he rejects the offer, expect them to pursue at least one more veteran starter. "We need to figure some more things out," Klentak said. "It's fairly reasonable to expect that every offseason we'll be looking to add starting pitching depth. There's a lot of different ways to skin that cat. But I think realistically this offseason will be no different than any other."

Crawford Dealing With Injury – Phillies top prospect J.P. Crawford remains sidelined with an injured oblique, but it probably will not affect his chances of being promoted to the big leagues before the end of the season. Crawford, 21, has not played since Aug. 9 after tweaking the oblique while making an acrobatic play in the field for Triple-A Lehigh Valley. He is hitting .258 with nine doubles, one triple, three home runs, 25 RBIs and a .681 OPS in 306 plate appearances with the IronPigs. "J.P. is day to day," Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said on Wednesday. "I expect he'll be back in the lineup in Lehigh sometime in the next couple of days. He's been playing catch. He's been hitting off a tee. He's been doing a lot of work on the side. We're just trying to be a little careful with him and make sure he doesn't re-aggravate it." Crawford is the No. 3 prospect in baseball, according to He could be the Phillies' everyday shortstop as early as next season, but the Phils might not promote him until 2017 because of 40-man roster considerations. The Phillies have to protect multiple prospects before this year's Rule 5 Draft. The list includes 12 of their Top 30 prospects, according to Nick Williams (No. 3), Dylan Cozens (No. 7), Mark Appel (No. 11), Andrew Knapp (No. 12), Ricardo Pinto (No. 16), Nick Pivetta (No. 18), Elniery Garcia (No. 20), Malquin Canelo (No. 22), Carlos Tocci (No. 23), Ben Lively (No. 24), Jose Pujols (No. 27) and Alberto Tirado (No. 29). There are others not on that list, too. Crawford does not have to be protected yet, so keeping him off the 40-man roster until next year would allow Philadelphia to protect an additional prospect it feels is at risk of being selected in the Rule 5 Draft.

Today In Phils History – In his 1886 debut, Charles Ferguson gets the win over Boston and go on to collect 12 more victories and 4 ties in 16 games. 20 years later, Kitty Bransfield hit an inside-the-park grand slam against St. Louis. In 1909, Arlie Latham became the oldest player in MLB history to walk and steal a base when the Giants inserted the coach into the lineup against the Phillies. In 1960, the Braves Lew Burdette threw a no hitter against the Phillies with only Tony Gonzalez reaching base when he was hit by a pitch in the 5th inning. Larry Bowa hit his 1st MLB homerun on this day in 1972… he had amassed 1,745 plate appearances before hitting the inside the park homerun at the Vet. Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver faced off for the last time in 1981 with Seaver, once again getting the victory and improving his head to head record to 12-2. In 1990, Tommy Greene made his Phillies debut. 5 years later, the Phillies sent 4 Kevins to the plate against the Giants (Stocker, Elster, Flora, and Jordan). 2 years later, for only the 2nd time in franchise history, the Phillies hit 2 grand slams in the same game as Mike Lieberthal and Billy McMillon both connected against the Giants. Lieberthal once again etched his name in Phillies history on this day in 2006 when he caught his 1,125th game passing Red Dooin as the all-time leader in games caught and celebrated the milestone by throwing out 2 baserunners and connecting for a homerun in a loss to the Nationals.

The Phillies are currently 56-65 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 44-62-0 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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