Thursday, September 1, 2016

Offense Remains MIA Against Nationals

GAME RECAP: Nationals Sweep Phillies 2-1

The Nationals will enter September in excellent shape in the National League East. They swept the Phillies in a three-game series with Wednesday night's 2-1 victory at Citizens Bank Park. The win maintained a nine-game lead in the division, which is the largest lead for an NL East team entering September since the Braves had a 15-game lead in 2013. The Nationals also close out a stretch where they played 20 games in 20 days and went 11-9. "I'm proud of these guys, 'cause that's a tough stretch," Nationals manager Dusty Baker said. "There are some teams that had that same 20-game stretch that didn't do as well. There are a few that did pretty good. The main thing is, we finished strong. I always tell my guys: 'Finish strong.'" Jayson Werth crushed a solo home run over the batter's eye in center field in the first inning to give the Nats the early lead. Phillies shortstop Freddy Galvis tied the game with a solo homer in the fifth, but Wilson Ramos hit a two-out single to right field in the seventh inning to score Anthony Rendon from second base to hand the Nats a one-run lead. Nationals left-hander Gio Gonzalez allowed just two hits and one run in six innings to earn the win. The Nats allowed just nine hits in the series against the Phillies, who tied a franchise record with four or fewer hits in three consecutive games (last accomplished Aug. 19-21, 2010). "We're up and down," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We have our streaks where we're hot and cold. Still, if you look at the season-long statistics, we're still close to the bottom in a lot of categories. So we need to improve in that department."

  • Phillies left-hander Adam Morgan's season has not gone as planned, but Mackanin said this might have been the best he had ever seen him pitch. He allowed three hits, two runs and struck out five in 6 2/3 innings. He is hoping to finish the season strong to remain in the conversation for a rotation spot next season. "It was definitely not a bad one," Morgan said. "I definitely want to improve, get out of the seventh inning, finish strong, but it's a good one to build off of."
  • Galvis hit seven home runs in 603 plate appearances last season, but he hit his 15th homer of the season in his 512th plate appearance in the fifth to tie the game at 1. Galvis is just the third shortstop in Phillies history to hit 20 or more doubles and 15 or more homers in a season. Jimmy Rollins (six times) and Granny Hamner are the others.
  • "Not really. Actually, now I'm hungrier. I want to go back there. I know that it takes a lot of work to be there with all those star guys. I know why you would think that it made me feel comfortable because I'm not doing what I was doing before, but no, no, I'm hungry. I want to get better." -- Phillies center fielder Odubel Herrera, on if he has become too comfortable since making the NL All-Star team. He has a .656 OPS since he learned he made the team. He had an .833 OPS beforehand.
  • Werth's homer in the first is the fourth longest at Citizens Bank Park in the Statcast™ era. Only Cameron Rupp (461 feet on Aug. 24, 2015), Ian Desmond(458 feet on June 28, 2015) and Ryan Howard (455 feet on Aug. 12, 2016) have hit homers farther than Werth. "I've been in some pretty cool places in this ballpark, but never there," Werth said.
The Phillies open a three-game series against the Braves on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET at Citizens Bank Park. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (10-8, 3.80 ERA) faces Braves right-hander Joel De La Cruz (0-7, 4.66 ERA) in the series opener. Hellickson is 1-0 with a 3.09 ERA in two starts this season against the Braves.


Where’s The Offense? – The Phillies believe strong starting pitching is the key to their next step up in the National League East standings. The first few weeks of the 2016 season strengthened that case, as the Phils surprised almost everybody in baseball with a 24-17 start, thanks almost entirely to a better-than-expected rotation. But as the Phillies lost to the Nationals on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park, 2-1, it also is clear they eventually need to find some offense, too. The Phillies managed just nine hits in the series sweep. They had four hits Monday, three hits Tuesday and two hits Wednesday. They tied a franchise record with three consecutive games of four or fewer hits. It last happened in August 2010. "We're up and down," Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. "We have our streaks where we're hot and cold. Still, if you look at the season-long statistics, we're still close to the bottom in a lot of categories. So we need to improve in that department." The Phillies are averaging 3.7 runs per game, last in MLB. They are last with a .296 on-base percentage, and they are 29th with a .385 slugging percentage. The team is on pace for its lowest runs-per-game average since 1988 (3.69) and its lowest on-base percentage since '68 (.294). "We're going to continue looking [for offense]," Mackanin said. "You take a guy like Cesar [Hernandez] -- he's really made strides. You look at Freddy [Galvis] -- 15 home runs and going on 60 RBIs, plays an outstanding shortstop. [Maikel] Franco needs to get back to where he needs to be. There's enough guys. [Odubel] Herrera is hitting .280, even though he's not having a good second half. [Aaron] Altherr looks like he's got a good-looking future ahead of him. "So we have enough here to get excited about, but they have to start producing." Herrera had been one of the team's brightest spots in the first half of the season, earning his way as the Phillies' only representative on the National League All-Star team. Since he learned he made the team on July 5, he has hit .247 with three home runs, 10 RBIs and a .656 OPS. He hit .303 with 10 homers, 32 RBIs and an .833 OPS beforehand. "I wouldn't call it regressing," Mackanin said about Herrera's second half. "You talk about the sophomore jinx. If this is his sophomore jinx and he's hitting .280, I'll take it. He's got a lot of things to figure out, but perhaps the All-Star Game changed him a little bit and made him a little more comfortable. It's hard to say." Herrera said he doesn't think he has become lax since the All-Star Game. "Not really," he said. "Actually, now I'm hungrier. I want to go back there. I know that it takes a lot of work to be there with all those star guys. I know why you would think that it made me feel comfortable because I'm not doing what I was doing before, but no, no, I'm hungry. I want to get better." The Phillies hope more than just Herrera picks up their hitting entering the season's final month. They need it.

Expanding The Roster – The Phillies should have a few new faces on their roster Friday, when they open a three-game series against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. They can expand their roster beginning Thursday, but they do not play that day. Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said before Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Nationals that the organization could promote three players come Friday. "A couple of relievers, maybe a hitter," Mackanin said. "They don't know who they are yet, so I can't tell you who they are." The Morning Call in Allentown reported late Wednesday night that left-hander Patrick Schuster, right-hander Colton Murray and first baseman Darin Ruf will be promoted. Ruf has been hitting well -- .298 with 20 home runs, 65 RBIs and an .895 OPS -- with Triple-A Lehigh Valley. "I would like to give [Ruf] another chance, but there are so many guys we have to look at," Mackanin said. "I don't know what we're going to do." Prospects such as Jorge Alfaro and Roman Quinn also could join the team once Double-A Reading's season is finished. It seems unlikely that Triple-A prospects J.P. Crawford and Nick Williams join the Phillies before the end of the year. Others could be promoted, too. But playing time already is tight, which is something Mackanin will have to work through. "It can sometimes be too crowded, and you know," Mackanin said, "it is what it is. It happens every September. I can't give playing time to a lot of guys. Perhaps guys who have earned the opportunity to come up, maybe that's the main reason for it. For the prospects -- we're not going to bring up a prospect to sit. We want him to play."

Heading To Arizona – The Phillies will have at least six players on the Scottsdale Scorpions in the Arizona Fall League. The Phillies in the AFL include right-handers Victor Arano and Miguel Nunez; left-hander Brandon Leibrandt; second baseman Scott Kingery; third baseman Mitch Walding and outfielder Aaron Brown. The Phillies could add one more player to the Scorpions. Arano is a combined 4-2 with a 2.23 ERA in 44 appearances with Class A Advanced Clearwater and Double-A Reading. Nunez is 4-3 with a 3.25 ERA in 49 appearances with Clearwater and Reading. Leibrandt is 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in nine starts with the Rookie-level GCL Phillies and Clearwater. He is coming back from a shoulder injury. The Phillies selected Kingery in the second round of the 2015 Draft. He is hitting .267 with six doubles, one home run, 15 RBIs and a .631 OPS since being promoted from Clearwater to Reading. He is the organization's No. 14 prospect, according to Philadelphia picked Walding in the fifth round of the '11 Draft. He has posted a combined .807 OPS with Clearwater and Reading. Brown, whom the Phillies selected in the third round in 2014, has a .689 OPS in 248 plate appearances with Reading.

Today In Phils History – In 1945, Vince DiMaggio tied the MLB record for grand slams in a season with his 4th. Robin Roberts appeared on the cover of Sport Magazine in 1953. Facing his former team, Cardinals pitcher Curt Simmons defeated the Phillies in 1963 by throwing a 6 hitter and also stealing home on a suicide squeeze (after hitting a triple). The following season the Phillies defeated Houston at Connie Mack Stadium thanks to 4 solo homeruns and despite several days of rioting in the city. In 1971, the Pirates fielded the 1st ever all African American lineup in a win over the Phillies. The Phillies signed free agent Tim McCarver on this day in 1980 making the catcher 1 of few players to have played in 4 different decades. Notable debuts on this day include Rick Schu (1984), Mickey Morandini (1990), Ryan Howard (2004), and Matt Stairs (2008). Finally, happy birthday to Garry Maddox (1949), David West (1964), and Sean O’Sullivan (1987).    

The Phillies are currently 60-73 this season putting them on pace to beat most preseason predictions. All time, the Phillies are 51-60-0 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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