Sunday, September 4, 2016

At Least The Score Was A Little Closer

GAME RECAP: Braves Best Phillies 6-4

Braves third baseman Adonis Garcia owned Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park. He went 2-for-4 with two home runs, three RBIs and three runs scored in a 6-4 victory in 10 innings over the Phillies. He hit solo homers in the first and sixth, knocked in the game-tying run in the eighth then had a leadoff walk and scored the go-ahead run in the 10th. The Braves can sweep the series with a victory Sunday afternoon. The Phillies did not help themselves defensively. Maikel Franco's error on a dropped foul ball in the eighth led to the Braves' game-tying run when Chase d'Arnaud walked on the next pitch and eventually scored on Garcia's grounder. It was the second straight night the Braves have clawed away at an early deficit to win in the late innings. "It's almost like happenstance now," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "It happens, then we just come back." "I called the ball too late and I dropped it," Franco said. In the 10th, the Braves scored twice on balls that did not leave the infield, with Ryan Howard's throw to the plate being just late on Tyler Flowers' grounder down the first-base line for the first run, and a fielder's choice off the bat of Jace Peterson plating the other. "That was a really good jump by Adonis," Snitker said. "That situation, you're kind of leery about getting doubled off and really didn't expect that from Tyler, the way he's been swinging the bat. So that was a great read by [Garcia]. We'll take it anyway we can get 'em."

  • Franco went 4-for-5 with three doubles and one RBI. He singled and scored in the third, doubled to score a run in the fifth and doubled to lead off the eighth. But the third baseman's dropped ball proved costly. The error became a big moment in the game as it allowed d'Arnaud to score two batters later to tie the game at 4. Still, the Phillies hope Saturday's effort helps Franco finish the season strong. "Last year he hit .280," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "I expect him to hit at least .280. He had a little bit of an off year in that respect, but he's an aggressive hitter and I like aggressive hitters. It was a great day to see from him." 
  • Velasquez had been talking a lot lately about his high pitch counts, but he put together an efficient start against the Braves. He allowed five hits, three runs (two earned) and struck out eight in seven innings, throwing only 92 pitches. It was the first time he had pitched seven or more innings since July 19. It was just the third time it has happened this season. After the game it was announced that Velasquez would be shut down for the rest of the season. "It's not the end of the road," Velasquez said. "It's all about learning the game and knowing how to get better for next year. This game is fun to learn. That's pretty much all I'm going to do." 
  • "These games we're losing remind me a lot of the games we were winning in the beginning of the season. We just weren't making mistakes then." -- Mackaninon the Phillies' recent struggles.
  • The Phillies challenged a call at third base in the third inning. Ender Inciarte hit a chopper in front of the mound with a runner on second and one out. Velasquez fielded the ball and threw to third base. Franco caught the ball, but moved out of the way of Dansby Swanson, who appeared to beat the tag. But the replay official in New York saw Franco tag Swanson, overturning the call.
  • The Phillies lost a challenge in the fourth when they thought Matt Kemp was out at third base trying to advance on a passed ball. Replay confirmed the call. He was safe.
  • Each of the Phillies' six Minor League affiliates will finish the season over .500. It is the first time it has happened since 1953, when nine affiliates finished over .500. Four affiliates will play in their respective postseason: Triple-A Lehigh Valley, Double-A Reading, Class A Lakewood and the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Phillies. Class A Advanced Clearwater is just one game behind Dunedin in the Florida State League standings.
Right-hander Jake Thompson (1-4, 7.86 ERA) starts the series finale against the Braves on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park. Thompson struggled in his first four starts before allowing two runs in seven innings last week against the Nationals.


See You Next Season – Vince Velasquez threw his final pitch of the 2016 season Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park. The Phillies and his agent had been closely monitoring his workload since the beginning of the year, and it was determined that Saturday would be his final start. Velasquez made it count. He allowed five hits, three runs and struck out eight in seven innings in a 6-4 loss to the Braves in 10 innings at Citizens Bank Park. "This is just the ending point for now," Velasquez said. Velasquez joined the Phillies in December as the key piece in the Ken Giles trade with Houston. He made the rotation out of Spring Training and opened his Phillies' career in dramatic fashion. He pitched six scoreless innings against the Mets on April 9 and struck out 16 in a shutout against the Padres on April 14. He finished 8-6 with a 4.12 ERA in 24 starts, striking out 152 batters and walking 45 in 131 innings. He spent some time on the disabled list in June with a strained right biceps. He struggled in the second half to pitch deep into games as he routinely racked up high pitch counts. "Things could have turned around a lot better, but things happen," Velasquez said. But he said he learned a lot. "I dealt with a lot of adversity and failure and managed to somehow pick myself back up and finish strong," he said. "On a serious note, I think I've matured pretty well." He said he plans to learn a lot more in the final month of the season, too. "Just sit down, watch the game and learn as I go," Velasquez said. "It's not the end of the road now. It's all about learning the game and knowing how to get better for next year. This game is fun to learn. That's pretty much all I'm going to do." In fact, Phillies catcher A.J. Ellis gave Velasquez a homework assignment for September. Velasquez has always enjoyed watching Zack Greinke pitch. In fact, he said he sees some similarities with their fastballs and power changeups, so Ellis has asked Velasquez to spend the rest of the month watching Greinke pitch last season when he was with the Dodgers. "With the Dodgers it was just phenomenal how he utilized his changeup that much and protected his fastball," Velasquez said. "I'm kind of like the same way. I think that's pretty much the objective. Just go back to last year's film and watch what he does and pretty much apply it to myself for next year." For Velasquez to take another step next season he will have to polish his secondary pitches and pitch deeper into games. He knows this. "He had a good season when you look at it, all things considered," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said.

Finishing Strong? – Maikel Franco hopes to take the good from Saturday night and carry it into the rest of the season's final month. He went 4-for-5 with three doubles and one RBI in a 6-4 loss in 10 innings to the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He doubled in the first, singled and scored in the third, doubled to score a run in the fifth and doubled in the eighth. But Franco also dropped a ball in foul territory in the eighth that eventually led to the Braves scoring the game-tying run. "I've been up and down too much," Franco said about his sophomore season. "I understand the situation. I have to just keep learning and get better. I'm trying to do everything I can possible." Franco is hitting .250 with 21 doubles, one triple, 22 home runs, 73 RBIs and a .732 OPS in 534 plate appearances. He hit .280 with 22 doubles, one triple, 14 home runs, 50 RBIs and an .840 OPS in 335 plate appearances last season, so Franco has not taken the step forward many in the organization had hoped. But Phillies general manager Matt Klentak reminded people last month that Franco is just 23. "We have to remember he's 23 years old," Klentak said. "It's not just to quote an age. By itself that doesn't mean anything. But there are players making their Major League debuts this year that are top industry prospects that are already 24, and he's got parts of three seasons under his belt already. It's reasonable to expect players at that age at this level are going to continue to make adjustments and get better." That is what the Phillies hope for Franco because they are counting on him to be a big part of their future.

Looking For More – Pete Mackanin addressed his hitters in a brief meeting before Saturday night's game against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. A pep talk couldn't hurt. The Phillies' offense entered Saturday last in Major League Baseball in runs per game (3.70) and on-base percentage (.296). The Phillies are on pace to have their lowest runs-per-game average since 1988 (3.69) and their lowest on-base percentage since 1968 (.294). "I just want them to pay more attention," Mackanin said. "It's the little things. Take batting practice the same way you were going to hit in the game, instead of taking it nonchalantly to get loose. I want them to bear down. "I want them to try to take some of that discipline from BP into the game. A two-strike approach. As much as [hitting coach Steve] Henderson has been badgering the guys with this type of thing -- hunt the fastball, a two-strike approach, all these basic concepts of hitting -- I think by hearing it from me it might make a difference, it might help. I told them they're better hitters than they've shown." Mackanin hopes things improve in the season's final month because the past two weeks have been rough. The Phillies are 4-11 since Aug. 16, averaging a mere 2.8 runs per game in that stretch. "I'm clinging to the good parts of the season," Mackanin said. "Hopefully we'll have a good finish." Perhaps that good finish includes Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera, who has hit .235 with a .628 OPS in 191 plate appearances since July 7. Herrera hit seventh Saturday night, the lowest he has hit in the Phillies' lineup since he hit seventh on July 20, 2015. "He's just giving away too many at-bats," Mackanin said. "They started pounding him inside and he's become aware of the inner-half of the plate. And how he's getting caught on both sides of the plate. I think that he's guessing. That's my best guess. His plate discipline has not been the same."

Today In Phils History – After losing their 1st 16 games to the Phillies, the Houston Colt 45’s finally got the win in 1962. 4 year later, Chris Short logged the 5th straight complete game victory for the Phillies in a shutout against New York. 2 years later, the Reading Phillies finally beat Binghamton after a 19 inning, 5 hour and 15 minute marathon. In 1997, Bobby Estalella became the 1st rookie to hit 3 homeruns in a game. 2 years later the Phillies surrendered a NL record 9 homeruns as the Reds trounced the team 22-3. 4 years ago, with a double down the right field line, Jimmy Rollins collected his 2,000th career hit. Notable debuts on this day include those of Willie Montanez (1970) and Wayne Twitchell (1971) who both previously made their MLB debuts with other organizations. Finally, happy birthday to Eddie Waitkus who was born on this day in 1919.  

The Phillies are currently 60-75 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 38-71-1 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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