Monday, September 12, 2016

Homeruns Not Enough To Support Solid Start

GAME RECAP: National Finish Phllies 3-2

While the Nationals are without right-hander Stephen Strasburg -- whose status for the rest of the season is uncertain after he strained the flexor mass in his right arm -- the back of their rotation has been pushed to elevate its game. Left-hander Gio Gonzalez becomes the team's likely No. 3 starter after a season when he has shown flashes of brilliance, followed by spurts of inconsistency. Gonzalez turned in one of his best starts of the season Sunday afternoon at Nationals Park, limiting the Phillies to one run on four hits in seven innings, as the Nationals completed their dominance over Philadelphia in 2016 with a 3-2 victory. Washington set a franchise record with 14 victories against the Phillies in 19 games in 2016, surpassing the 1973 Expos, who won 13 games against Philly. The Nationals' magic number to clinch the National League East dropped to 11. "He seemed like a guy on a mission," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "We talked the other day and I told him that he's very important in this equation, especially with 'Stras' out. He responded." The Phillies received a solid start from left-hander Adam Morgan, who pitched into the seventh inning but left after issuing a leadoff walk to Bryce Harper. Phillies' starters allowed four runs in 23 1/3 innings in the series. "They can't say we're a pushover," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "Our starters really battled and pitched well this whole four-game series. That's really a good sign with these young pitchers. The usual answer on the hitting. But I'm really happy with the starters." The next batter, Anthony Rendon, roped a run-scoring double off the wall in left field to give the Nats the lead. Later in the inning, Rendon scored the decisive run on a passed ball. Mark Melancon pitched a scoreless ninth to seal Washington's victory for his 41st save of the season.

  • Morgan is trying to give the Phillies' front office something more to think about this offseason. He allowed three hits, two runs and two walks and struck out two in six-plus innings against the Nationals. He has a 2.41 ERA in his last three starts and a 3.64 ERA in his last five after posting a 6.62 ERA in his first 15 appearances (13 starts) this season. "I hope to keep it rolling," Morgan said. "Having the two-seam [fastball] and the changeup, being able to throw inside to righties, knowing when to throw inside to righties, really has been huge. I don't really believe in finesse, crafty lefty, anything like that. I'm me. I'm still going to use my fastball and attack guys but not try to pitch around them or pitch to their weaknesses. I'm going to pitch to my strengths."
  • Did anybody expect Tommy Joseph and Freddy Galvis to hit a combined 35 homers this season? Joseph hit a solo homer to center field in the seventh to tie the game at 1, his 18th, while Galvis hit his 17th homer to right-center field in the eighth to cut the Nationals' lead to 3-2. "These are the same games we were winning at the beginning of the season," Galvis said. "The pitching is doing a really good job. We have to step up and make something happen, try to get some runs for these guys."
  • Joseph's solo homer to center field in the seventh inning tied the game at 1. It was his 18th homer of the season, tying him with Pat Burrell for the third-most homers in the past 43 seasons by a Phillies' rookie (1974-2016). Ryan Howard (22 in 2005) and Scott Rolen (21 in 1997) are first and second. Willie Montanez (30 in 1971) holds the all-time home run record.
  • The Nationals used their challenge in the seventh inning on whether Danny Espinosa was hit by a pitch with two outs in the inning. The call on the field that he was not hit was upheld. Espinosa then grounded out.
Phillies right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (10-9, 3.90 ERA) faces the Pirates in a series opener Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. Hellickson hopes to get back on track after struggling recently. He is 0-3 with a 6.75 ERA in his last three starts, although he pitched six innings in two of them. Prior to that, Hellickson had a 2.45 ERA in his previous 10 starts.


Remembering 9/11 – Fifteen years after Sept. 11, 2001, the Nationals and Phillies remembered the terrorist attacks of that day with an extended pregame ceremony at Nationals Park. The events included a performance by the Army Drill Team, a recognition of Washington D.C. first responders and a flyover. More than 1,000 midshipmen from the U.S. Naval Academy marched into the outfield, and a group of them performed the national anthem. Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer, who caught the ceremonial first pitch from Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus, said he was glad MLB was recognizing September 11. "We represent something bigger than just the game of baseball," Scherzer said. "We respect that 9/11 signifies much more than just a terrorist attack. It signifies us as a nation mourning a loss, coming together, and let's do something about it." Phillies first baseman Tommy Joseph, whose wife is in the Air Force, was 10 years old on Sept. 11, 2001. He said Sunday that he didn't initially understand the impact of the attacks but came to appreciate its significance, as his friends in the army have been deployed for combat. "I remember sitting at the little pizza joint right down the road from my house," Joseph said. "Some of my friends and parents were there. At the time, you don't know how significant it is. You know it's a terrorist attack. I think the way my parents acted made me realize it was much bigger than I thought it was at the time. I was fortunate enough not to have anybody impacted, but now the older that I've gotten and the more connected I am with the military, it's remarkable to see how it has affected everybody." The Nationals wore jerseys with red, white and blue team logos Sunday, and the first- and third-base lines featured emblems reading "September 11, 2001; We Will Not Forget." Scherzer said he thinks it's important for the country to pause and think about people who died on Sept. 11 and also military members who died in subsequent wars. "Those threats still continue to this day," Scherzer said. "And there's still servicemen and women out there that are putting their lives on the line for our right for me personally to be able to play baseball and do what I love."

Room For Improvement – The final few weeks of the Phillies' season will not change the fact they need to improve their offense next season. The Nationals beat Philadelphia on Sunday at Nationals Park, 3-2. It was the 51st time in 143 games the Phillies have scored two or fewer runs. Only the Padres (53), Braves (52) and Mets (52) have had more games like that. The Phillies remain last in baseball averaging 3.63 runs per game and with a .295 on-base percentage. "These are the same games we were winning at the beginning of the season," Freddy Galvis said. "The pitching is doing a really good job. We have to step up and make something happen, try to get some runs for these guys." The Phillies' only two runs on Sunday came through solo home runs from Tommy Joseph and Galvis. Joseph's homer to center in the seventh tied the game at 1 in the seventh inning, his 18th of the season, Galvis' 17th home run to right-center in the eighth cut the Nats' lead to 3-2. How many people predicted Joseph and Galvis would hit a combined 35 home runs this year? Joseph's 18 homers are tied for eighth among rookies in a single season in Phillies' history. The group includes Mike Schmidt (1973), Greg Luzinski (1972), Pat Burrell (2000) and Buzz Arlett (1931). Joseph is tied for the third-most homers among Phillies rookies in the past 43 years (1974-2016). Only Ryan Howard (22 in 2005) and Scott Rolen (21 in 1997) have hit more. Galvis' 17 homers in a season are the fifth-most in Phillies history by a shortstop. Jimmy Rollins holds the top four spots. The Phillies have hit 142 home runs this year, which ranks 25th in baseball. But they are on pace to hit 163 homers, which would be the most they have hit since 2010 (166). Of course, those homers have not been nearly as helpful with the team's low on-base percentage. They are on pace to have their lowest on-base percentage since 1968 (.294). "When you're an aggressive hitter, you're going to hit mistakes," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "And these guys have hit a lot of mistakes out over the plate. What we're looking for is consistent, quality at-bats. ... You're going to run into balls and hit home runs here and there, but there's also another part of your hitting approach where you have to be more disciplined at the plate, and that's extremely hard to teach." Said Galvis: "I feel good about my defense right now. I've been play good defense for my pitchers and that's a big part of a winning team. I'm happy with that. I feel good with the RBIs and homers, too. But I want to be on base and score more runs, too. I think I have to keep working and try to get more base hits, get on base more, try to steal a couple bases and help the team win more games."

Prospects Promoted – Chase Utley once learned he had been promoted to the big leagues on a bus ride from Scranton, Pa., to Ottawa, Canada. The bus stopped in the middle of nowhere, Utley disembarked, and he waited at a sandwich shop for a ride back into town. Roman Quinn and Jorge Alfaro took a car service from Reading, Pa., to Washington on Sunday morning. "It is a surreal feeling right now, it definitely is," Quinn said before the Phillies' series finale against the Nationals. Quinn is the No. 8 prospect in the organization, according to The Phillies immediately put him in the lineup, hitting second and playing him in center field. Alfaro, who joined the team for a day earlier this month after the Phillies traded Carlos Ruiz, but before A.J. Ellis arrived, started the day on the bench. "I was pretty surprised about it, but I'm ready to go," Quinn said of his start. Quinn figured to be promoted once Double-A Reading got eliminated from the postseason. Like Alfaro, he is on the 40-man roster. Quinn hit .287 with 14 doubles, six triples, six home runs, 25 RBIs, 31 stolen bases and an .802 OPS in 71 games. He missed time this season with an oblique injury and a concussion, which has been the story of Quinn's Minor League career. He has immense talent, but he simply has been unable to stay healthy. "I know, man. It's like everything possible went wrong," he said. But Quinn is with the Phillies, and he is healthy, hoping to make a case for himself to make the Phillies' Opening Day roster next year. "I had a lot of setbacks with injuries and everything like that that kept me back, but it all paid off, all the work I put in paid off and I'm glad to be here," Quinn said.

Today In Phils History – Earl Moore set the new club record in 1910 when he struck out 13 Brooklyn batters. With 4 singles against the Pirates in 1927, the Phillies completed their 5th straight contest without an extra base hit, the longest such streak in the last 100 years. Don Money’s streak of an NL record 163 errorless chances ended in the second inning in 1972. 2 years later, the Phillies set a franchise record and tied the MLB record with 4 pinch hits in an 8th inning comeback win over the Pirates. In 1980, Mark Davis, the Phillies 1st player born in the 1960’s, made his MLB debut with 2 innings of scoreless relief. The Phillies acquired John Denny from the Indians on this day in 1982. 2 year later, Len Matuszek hit his franchise record 3rd pinch hit homerun of the year off of Bruce Sutter giving the Phillies a 6-5 win over the Cardinals. Phillies pitchers go the entire game in 2009 against the Mets without issuing a walk or recording a strikeout but surrendering plenty of hits and runs in the 10-9 Phillies loss. The following year, Ryan Howard made a guest appearance on the show “Entourage” playing himself. Other notable debuts occurring on this day include Jose DeLeon (1992 – with the Phillies), Ken Jackson (1987), and Michael Jack Schmidt (1972). Finally, happy birthday to Stan Lopata (1925), Andy Seminick (1920), and John Quinn and Fred Luderus who were both born on this day in 1885.

The Phillies are currently 63-80 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 42-64-0 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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