Phillies 2015 – Week Nine
Entering the week, the Phillies were dragging seven consecutive losses behind them. This isn’t the first time you’ve read it in this column and it won’t be the last … this season, we really need to enjoy the little things. For example, this week was a pretty good week to be Jeff Francoeur and a great week for rookie third baseman Maikel Franko. Three with the Cincinnati Reds and three with the San Francisco Giants … it went a little something like this …
This organization has been the focus of much criticism in recent years. But, their charitable efforts are not the reason. This year’s Phillies Phestival was another fine example of doing a good thing the right way, raising nearly $800,000 to help fund ALS research.
Six pitches into the game, Phillies’ starter Sean O’Sullivan had already surrendered a single, a double and a 1-0 lead. By the time he left, with two out in the sixth, the Phils were trailing 4-1. After a Chase Utley solo homer in the bottom of the sixth, the home team entered the bottom of the eighth in a two-run hole. If you’ve been following this team, you know this is not a promising scenario. But, when Jay Bruce appeared to lose Ryan Howard’s 2-out line drive in the lights, it skipped by him and turned into a double for the ‘Big Piece’. With Howard on second and Franco representing the tying run, Reds’ reliever Jumbo Diaz’ 2-1 pitch found its way into a very dangerous part of the rookie’s wheelhouse and was promptly launched down the left field line for a 415 foot game-tying bomb. Jonathan Papelbon worked an efficient 1-2-3 ninth inning and turned things over to the bats. Rookie Odubel Herrera roped a double into left-center field and was promptly sacrificed to third by catcher Carlos Ruiz. Having a runner on third and less than two out has been far from automatic for this team. But, this time, pinch-hitter Darin Ruf stroked a 1-1 pitch to right, scoring Herrera for the walk-off win. Phillies 5, Reds 4.
On May 12, 2006, Cole Hamels made his major league debut in an 8-4 win against the Reds. Since that time, much has changed for the Phillies prize lefthander. One thing that hasn’t changed is his uncanny ability to beat the team from the Queen City. In fact, as a team, the Phillies have never lost to the Reds when Hamels has started the game.
The game followed a disturbingly familiar script as Hamels struck out eight batters and allowed only a two-run single by Brandon Phillips in the fourth. Meanwhile, Reds’ starter Mike Leake retired the first 11 men he faced and allowed only two walks before Franco’s single with two down in the seventh broke up the no-hit bid. When Joey Votto took reliever Jake Diekman deep in the top of the ninth, the score stood at 4-0 and the home team was in need of a second consecutive miraculous late-inning comeback. But, what were the odds of that happening? Actually … would you believe they were pretty good? For the second straight night, Franco strode to the plate as the tying run. This time the victim was Cincinnati’s fire-balling closer Aroldis Chapman as the Phils’ third baseman hammered a 1-0 pitch well over 400 feet into the left-center field seats. With the game tied at 4-4, each team stranded runners in a scoreless 10th inning. Luis Garcia allowed a lead-off double in the 11th. But, he managed to escape unharmed. Cody Asche beat the shift by squirting a one-out double inside the third base bag and scored when Votto and reliever Ryan Mattheus were unable to turn Freddy Galvis’ ground ball into a routine 3-1 putout. The newly minted left-fielder raced home as the loose ball rolled toward the home dugout and the Phillies had done it again. Phillies 5, Reds 4.
Looking to avoid a sweep, the Reds hung 6 runs (5 of them earned) on starter Aaron Harang. The Phillies fought back. But, when an eighth inning rally failed to bring Franco to the plate as the tying run, it was clear they hadn’t followed the formula. Actually, the key at-bat in that inning was Francoeur’s strikeout. With runners at second and third and nobody out, the veteran was unable to put the ball in play … huge. Chapman regained his form and struck out the side in the ninth. Reds 6, Phillies 4.
You might think that a match-up of two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and journeyman righthander Jerome Williams was a touch slanted in favor of the visiting Giants. But, neither pitcher was particularly sharp and, by the top of the seventh, a 4-4 tie had been entrusted to the bullpens. It was in that seventh inning that San Francisco’s all-everything catcher Buster Posey smoked Luis Garcia’s 2-0 pitch over the centerfield wall to post a 5-4 lead. The Giants’ bullpen used two timely double plays and the powerful right arm of Santiago Casilla to close out the win. Giants 5, Phillies 4.
If Lincecum/Williams seemed one-sided, Saturday’s starters Madison Bumgarner and Severino Gonzalez must have looked like Ronald Reagan and Walter Mondale in November of 1984. Gonzalez looked like a rookie making only his 5th career start as he lasted only 2-2/3 innings, allowing 6 runs. On the other hand, in six of the eight innings he pitched, Bumgarner was untouchable in mowing down the Phils 1-2-3. Inexplicably in the 4th, he allowed two singles and hit second baseman Cesar Hernandez before surrendering a grand slam to Francoeur. He also allowed a solo homer to Andres Blanco. But, again, Casilla closed out the win for the visitors. Giants 7, Phillies 5.
Righty Sean O’Sullivan was charged with outdueling Ryan Vogelsong as the Phils closed out their nine game homestand. Solidly unspectacular, as we have come to expect, O’Sullivan allowed three runs over six innings and left a 3-3 tie in the hands of the bullpen. Vogelsong pitched into the seventh, but left with two-out and two on base. Francoeur greeted reliever Javier Lopez with a line drive into the leftfield corner that put the home team ahead 5-3. Franco topped off his torrid week with a solo homer served up by Jeremy (Can you imagine the way) Affeldt. Papelbon wasn’t perfect in his first save opportunity since May 20th. But, he was able to close out the win for his 12th save in 12 chances. Phillies 6, Giants 4.
Phillies fans may have been given a glimpse into an exciting future courtesy of number 7’s red-hot bat (10-25, 3 2B, 4 HR in June). But, they were simultaneously reminded of the distance still to be traveled and the work to be done as another week passed without news of a trade involving one of their veteran pieces or the promotion of one of their prospects. A little bit of good and a little not so good. What else would you expect from a week that resulted in a 3-3 record.
Looking ahead –
Monday brings the MLB draft. Mel Kiper has gracefully chosen to keep his haircut out of any discussions. But, I will go out on a limb and predict (wink) that the Phillies will use the 10th overall pick to select Georgia high-schooler Cornelius Randolph, a shortstop with an impressive left-handed bat who projects as a second or third baseman at the major league level. The 48th pick isn’t quite so easy. But, I’m going to (ahem) guess that they’ll go with University of Arizona second baseman Scott Kingery. He’s a little more Nick Punto than he is Dustin Pedroia from where I’m looking. But, I have a hunch that’s the way they’ll go.
Down on the Farm of the Week –
Many eyes have been cast in the direction of Reading this spring and rightly so. However, a quick perusal of the roster of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs doesn’t engender the same kind of excitement. In fact, on Saturday night Chase d’Arnaud (hardly a ‘prospect’ at 28) had a three hit game against the Indianapolis Indians. But, former big-leaguer Chris Volstad held the remainder of the line-up to one hit as the Ferrous Swine lost 4-0. All you can say is … meh.