Phillies 2015 – Week Three
After a week on the road that produced a 1-6 record, our boys went bowling. This organization has a solid record for off-day charity events and Carlos Ruiz’ fund raiser for Philadelphia Futures continued that tradition. Attaboy, Chooch.
Facing a Miami Marlins team that had struggled out of the gate, Ryan Howard ended a career-long homerless drought with a two-run shot as the Phils offense gifted starter Jerome Williams with seven runs. Ken Giles and Jonathan Papelbon efficiently closed out the 7-3 win.
Starter Cole Hamels threw 106 pitches through six innings and entrusted a 1-1 tie to the bullpen. In the seventh inning, Luis Garcia allowed his first earned run of the season when he balked in Marlins’ Shortstop Adieny Hechavarria.
Trailing 2-1 in the eighth, fielding errors by Chase Utley and rookie Odubel Herrera were the key to a four run outburst by the Marlins and the topic of much conversation the following morning as the hometown nine lost 6-1.
A record-setting day at Citizen’s Bank Park, as 17,097 fans comprised the smallest crowd in the history of The Bank.
Spot starter Dustin McGowan threw three scoreless innings. Unfortunately, he went out for a fourth. After walking the bases loaded, he allowed a two-run single by Hechavarria and was replaced by Hector Neris, who allowed a two-run single by Martin Prado. As has been mentioned before in this column, this team is not built to come back from four run deficits. The Marlins tacked on four more in the sixth, highlighted by a Mike (yeah, you heard me … MIKE … you want me to call you Giancarlo, play soccer) Stanton home run that might still be going if the leftfield bleachers hadn’t gotten in the way.
The Phillies avoided being shutout for the third time this month. But, suffered a 9-1 loss just the same.
The weekend brought the Atlanta Braves to town. Starter Aaron Harang continued his early season dominance by allowing only two hits in eight scoreless innings. Braves’ lefty Alex Wood and teamed with their bullpen to match Harang’s effort and send the series opener scoreless into the ninth. Giles mowed down the three Atlanta hitters he faced and, when Freddy Galvis raced home on Ben Revere’s ground ball in the bottom of the inning, Giles was credited with his first victory of the season as the Phils walked off with the 1-0 win.
Phillies’ starter David Buchanan appears to have assumed the ‘Kyle Kendrick’ role in this rotation. Like ‘KK’ before him, he has displayed a decent arm, a competitive spirit and a shelf-life that, when exceeded in any start, could lead to nightmarish consequences.
Having been shutout the night before, the Atlanta offense appeared anxious as Buchanan blanked them over the first six innings throwing only 65 pitches. Andrelton Simmons began the seventh by driving pitch number 66 over the leftfield wall and the Braves’ bats came roaring to life. After two deep fly balls and two walks, Buchanan was replaced by Jake Diekman who was greeted by a single and double that put the Phils in a 3-2 hole.
The Braves added two more in the 8th as the Phillies wasted Ryan Howard’s second homer of the year and an eye-popping defensive play by Galvis in the 5-2 loss.
A sun-splashed afternoon began with the frivolity of the Phillie Phanatic’s birthday celebration. The playful mood was jeopardized when Jerome Williams’ control issues led to two first inning runs for the Braves. When Howard answered with a three-run bomb in the bottom half, the party resumed. Williams found his rhythm and Galvis was 3-3 with two runs scored, hitting out of the eight hole as the home team handed a 5-3 lead to their mercurial closer, Jonathan Papelbon.
Still shaking the effects of a migraine, the hard-throwing righthander allowed an unlikely solo home run to Alberto Callaspo before a single by Simmons and a walk to Freddie Freeman endangered fingernails throughout the yard. When Kelly Johnson’s fly ball took Revere to the base of the left field wall the crowd of 28,702 collectively exhaled, Harry the K led a chorus of ‘High Hopes’ and the Phils had evened their home record at 6-6 with the 5-4 win.
The prevailing belief is that this team is going to struggle due to an overall lack of talent throughout the roster. If we are to accept that fate, there are still things we can demand of our squad that have nothing to do with skill.
Effort – By and large, we are seeing great effort from this team. Whether it’s Revere responding to a bowtie from Marlins’ lefty Mike Dunn with a bases-clearing triple or diving to turn a double into an F7, Howard working an 0-2 count full before going deep on Sunday or Galvis hitting .361 and playing spectacular defense, there is a sense of pride on this team that goes deeper than tossing clichés around the clubhouse in the post-game pressers.
Thinking the Game – This needs to improve. Understanding the situation and acting accordingly can be the difference between winning and losing more often than you think. Some of the most important statistics in the game come down to situational understanding and thinking the game. At this point, two of those stats stand out – hitting with runners in scoring position and relievers stranding inherited runners.
In 136 at-bats with runners in scoring position, this team has 23 hits … a robust .169 clip. More notable is their tendency to not put the ball in play. Phillies’ hitters have struck out 29 times with a chance to knock in runs. When you’re thinking the game, you look to make contact and put the ball in play. More K’s than hits? That has to change.
The bullpen has, in many ways, been a very bright spot in the early going. But, the one glaring issue so far has been their ability to put out a fire. Entering Sunday, they had allowed 8 of 17 inherited runners to score, that’s 47%. By comparison, the league average is 29% and the Braves’ bullpen has only allowed 3 of 37 inherited base runners to score, a mind-numbing 8%. You can call it will, toughness, being clutch … what it comes down to is understanding the situation and getting the job done. As these young arms develop, it would serve them well to develop the kind of mindset that leaves ducks on the pond.
Looking ahead –
A 10-game road trip gives the Phils a chance to improve upon their moribund 1-6 record in unfriendly confines. Ryan Howard takes his recently rediscovered power stroke home to Missouri where he has terrorized the St. Louis Cardinals throughout his career. The Cards are dealing with some injury issues. But, they still present a formidable challenge. Watch for the major league debut of righthander Severino Gonzalez on Tuesday night. He’s not a highly touted prospect. But, until Chad Billingsley is ready, they will be filling in the rotation however they can. A weekend in south Florida offers a chance to avenge this week’s series loss to the Fish.
Down on the Farm –
Lehigh Valley –
Maikel Franco 3B – .333, 9 Doubles, 10 RBI, 17 K / 75 AB
Roman Quinn CF – .361, 17 R, 8 SB, 15K / 61 AB
Zach Eflin SP – 2-0, 0.00, 9H / 15.2 IP
Jesse Biddle – 2-0, 2.76, 16K / 16.1 IP