Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Big Night For Phillies Veterans And Rookies

GAME RECAP: Phillies Flank Pirates 6-2

The Pirates kept skidding through September on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, and Gerrit Cole's return from the disabled list did little to stop their fall from .500. Cole surrendered five runs in two shaky innings as the Phillies handed the Pirates their fourth straight loss, a 6-2 decision to open a four-game series. The Pirates have lost 12 of their last 14 games, falling four games below .500 for the first time since June 28. They remain far removed from the leaders of the National League Wild Card pack, and their six-game deficit held steady due only to losses by the Mets and Cardinals on Monday night. Officially eliminated from the NL Central race on Sunday night, the Pirates faded farther from the postseason picture on Monday night with 20 games remaining. "It was just a bad night," Cole said. "I put us in a huge hole early. That's not what we needed." Freddy Galvis homered off Cole, making his first start since Aug. 24 due to elbow inflammation, and rookie Roman Quinn recorded his first Major League hit and RBIs -- on a two-run double in the second inning -- as well as a stolen base off the struggling Cole. Jorge Alfaro, another highly regarded Phillies rookie, recorded his first big league hit off Jared Hughes in the eighth inning, reaching safely on a swinging bunt down the third-base line. "Roman Quinn had a nice night," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "It was a good night all around." The Phillies held the Pirates to five hits and three walks on the night. Starter Jeremy Hellickson gave up an unearned run on three hits while striking out six over 6 1/3 innings, easily outdueling Cole. The Pirates' ace a year ago, Cole's ERA climbed to 3.88 as he grinded through two innings on 55 pitches, allowing four hits and tying a career high with four walks. "Today it was like he was trying a little more," catcher Francisco Cervelli said of Cole. "He hasn't pitched in a long time. Maybe the next one, it'll be better."

  • Giving the opposing pitcher a base on balls rarely works out. Just ask Cole. The Phillies had two runs in and a runner on second with one out in the second inning, but Cole had a chance to limit the damage with Hellickson at the plate. Instead, Hellickson and Cesar Hernandez walked to load the bases. Quinn followed with a two-run double and another run scored when Maikel Franco grounded out to the right side, giving the Phils a commanding early lead.
  • The game could have gotten away from Hellickson early. He should have been out of the first inning, but Gregory Polanco's two-out grounder went through the legs of Howard to allow an unearned run to score. Unfazed, Hellickson struck out Jung Ho Kang and then allowed just two more singles before leaving the game with one out in the seventh. "It's such a good changeup that it plays. The one thing you try to do as a hitter is sell out to it, give in that you're going to get beat with a couple fastballs along the way," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It's a premium pitch for him. … Then he continued to make pitches."
  • "I'm sure [Jorge] Alfaro is going to tell everybody years from now that it was a line drive to center field."-- Mackanin, on the first Major League hit by Alfaro, a dribbler up the third base line.
  • Galvis hit his 18th home run of the season in the second inning, continuing a power surge that nobody saw coming. The long ball off Cole came in the 518th at-bat for the 5-foot-10 switch-hitter. Coming into this season, he had 20 homers in 1,073 Major League at-bats and just 25 in 2,399 Minor League at-bats.
Right-hander Alec Asher will make his second big league start of the season at 7:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday at Citizens Bank Park. Asher held the Nationals to two hits and a walk over six scoreless innings in his last start.


First Hits – Outfielder Roman Quinn and catcher Jorge Alfaro now have one more thing in common in addition to being top Phillies prospects -- Nos. 8 and 4, respectively, according to MLB.Pipeline.com -- and being called up by the Phillies on Sunday after Double-A Reading's season ended. Both players got their first Major League hits in Monday night's 6-2 win over the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park. Quinn's was a hard-hit double to left-center in the second that also resulted in his first two RBIs. He had recorded his first stolen base in the first inning after walking with one out and nobody on. In the sixth he doubled again, a long drive to dead center that almost cleared the fence. Alfaro, who is expected to get his first big league start Tuesday night, made his Major League debut as a pinch-hitter in the eighth and reached on a swinging bunt up the third-base line. Manager Pete Mackanin said he expects Quinn, 23, to play a lot in the final three weeks of the regular season and that Alfaro, also 23, could get between six and eight starts. "They're not going to be able to establish themselves, but they're going to be able to make a really good first impression," Mackanin said. "They could make a statement." Said Quinn, who was showered with ice by his teammates at his locker after the game: "It always feels good to get the first one out of the way. And it felt great. This is a dream come true, and I'm looking forward to it." Said Alfaro: "I was really excited. It was nice to get an at-bat. I was really nervous. So I think it will help me [Tuesday], because I have an at-bat already. Now I'll try to make good contact."  While Mackanin will get a good look at the speedy Quinn in the final 18 games, he won't always be looking at him in center field. Quinn, long viewed as a potential center fielder of the future, made his Major League debut Sunday at his natural position. Monday night, though, he was in right. The reason is simple. Odubel Herrera, a converted second baseman, has only started in center this season. "We don't want to send any message to Odubel. He's our center fielder right now," Mackanin said. "Then we'll look at the whole picture at the end of the season and see what we've got and see what makes the most sense." Herrera profiles as a left fielder, but the Phillies will keep their options open. Quinn, who batted .302 and had 36 stolen bases in 77 games between the Fightin' Phils and a Gulf Coast League rehab assignment, was used all around the outfield this season, and that will continue in the big leagues. "I'd like to see him in all three positions," Mackanin said.

Mound Stability – So much of the Phillies' focus has been on the young pitchers this season, and that's understandable. Jerad Eickhoff, Jake Thompson, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola, Zach Eflin and Adam Morgan are among the arms the organization hopes might anchor their rotation for years to come. In a 6-2 win over the Pirates on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park, though, 29-year-old right-hander Jeremy Hellickson was a reminder of the value of a savvy veteran. He earned his team-leading 11th victory by allowing just one unearned run on three singles in 6 1/3 innings. Hellickson can be a free agent at the end of the year. That means decisions have to be made. The Phillies could try to sign him. They could make him a qualifying offer, meaning that they'd get a compensatory Draft pick if he rejects it, but they could end up paying him around $16 million for one year if he accepts. Strictly from a baseball perspective, manager Pete Mackanin thinks the decision is easy. "I'd like to see him back," Mackanin said. "He's been a stabilizer for us. He gives us a lot of innings." Hellickson has been steady much of the season, but he came into Monday night with a 6.75 ERA in his previous three starts. "I think the last couple games I was getting ahead of guys and just wasn't able to put them away," Hellickson said. "And I gave up some big home runs with guys on base. I was just one pitch away from those games, and this time I was able to put guys away when I got ahead, for the most part." Hellickson gave up an unearned run in the first, but he was able to settle down after needing 29 pitches to get through that inning. "I knew after that I had to bear down and throw strikes and get some early outs the next few innings to go six or six-plus," Hellickson said. "It was just commanding both sides of the plate. I lost command of the fastball to a few guys, but I was getting ahead and making good two-strike pitches." Hellickson ended up throwing just 80 pitches in his last 5 1/3 innings. Said Mackanin: "He was outstanding. No earned runs. He pitched extremely well."

Looking Toward The Off Season – Could the Phillies sign a veteran free-agent bat this winter? On one hand, the Phillies have consistently said they don't expect to be big players in the free-agent market until they view themselves as legitimate contenders. On the other, they added veteran starters Jeremy Hellickson and Charlie Morton last offseason to stabilize the talented but young and largely unproven rotation. A case could be made that the same principle applies to the lineup. Rumors surfaced recently that hitters like the Marlins' Martin Prado or the Rangers' Ian Desmond could be on the radar. Without commenting on specific names, manager Pete Mackanin said before Monday night's series opener against the Pirates at Citizens Bank Park that he believes there would be two benefits to such a move. "I'd like to get a professional hitter, or even two," Mackanin said. "I think it takes pressure off the young guys when you have [Tommy] Joseph, [Cameron] Rupp and even [Maikel] Franco in the middle of your lineup to produce runs. Your first year in the big leagues, that's tough to be called upon to be the run producer. "So if you have a guy you can count on to give you quality at-bats consistently, I believe that's important. The other players see it, and it's just as important to have that in the lineup as it is in the rotation." The other factor is that while the manager and coaches have talked to the players about having a better approach at the plate, sometimes it helps to have an established teammate as a role model. "Like the pitching staff," Mackanin said. "You learn from a veteran pitcher by talking to him and asking him questions. By observing and talking about what kind of pitches he throws. Knowing basic situations. With hitting, it's moving a runner from second to third without just giving yourself up with a ground ball to the right side. A deep fly ball to center will get that runner over. With two strikes, what is this guy going to try to do with me? What am I going to do? With a hard thrower, instead of swinging from your heels, take him up the middle or the other way. All those little things determine how good you are at this level." Mackanin noted how the Mets struggled offensively before trading for Yoenis Cespedes before the Trade Deadline last season. "And all of a sudden, everybody started hitting as a group," he pointed out. The Phillies rank last in the Major Leagues in runs scored. Mackanin believes that the team's pitching has been good enough to be competitive for much of the season. "Now we have to figure out how to get more offense," he said.

Today In Phils History – The Dodgers Dazzy Vance failed to get the shutout but completed the no hitter against the Phillies in 1925 (the Phillies scored on a 2 base OF error, errant throw, and sac fly). In 1963, Chris Short beat the Dodgers while setting a new franchise record for strikeouts by a left hander with 14. The Phillies set a NL record when they used 27 players to defeat the Cardinals in 17 innings in 1974 (the teams combined to use a MLB record 51 players during the game). Notable acquisitions on this day include Lee Elia (1958), Sparky Lyle (1980), and Dave Stewart (1985). Finally, Happy Birthday to Rick Wise who was born on this day in 1945.

The Phillies are currently 64-80 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 50-62-1 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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