Phillies 2015 – Week Nineteen
On a grand scale, we could be talking about the long arc of the last 15 years that carried the Phillies from mediocrity to a championship and back again. In a more myopic sense, we could mean just the last few weeks. But, watching the ‘action’ of our Phillies surprising run of success over the last month had some cringing in expectation of the Newtonian ‘equal and opposite reaction’. That’s the problem with the physical laws of the universe … they just don’t take no for an answer.
The Phils roared into Phoenix having swept the Padres in San Diego and won five of their last eight games to begin the month of August. But, the Arizona Diamondbacks were waiting behind the door, like a snickering Foghorn Leghorn ready to crack them on the head with a 2×4.
In the series opener, Aaron Harang was holding things together in a 2-2 tie before things went all ‘Looney Tunes’. A parade of extra base hits resulted in a three run fifth, a six run sixth and a 13-3 drubbing.
Anxious to answer Monday’s whipping, the Phils jumped to a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Andres Blanco (who had replaced Maikel Franco after he was hit on the left wrist by a pitch) hustled home when Ryan Howard’s single was mishandled by right-fielder Yasmany Tomas. They appeared to be ready to add to that lead in the second when Darin Ruf led off with a double. But, they came up empty. Then, history happened. David Buchanan threw 27 pitches in the bottom of the second before recording an out. By then, four runs had scored and the D’backs were in the process of loading the bases for David Peralta, who blasted a grand slam. But, even after eight runs had scored, there was more to come. No Phillies pitcher had allowed 11 runs in a single inning in more than 75 years. Buchanan was about to change that. After the Peralta salami, he allowed a double, home run, double and single before he was mercifully pulled (1-2/3 IP, 11 H, 11 ER). D’backs 13, Phillies 1.
Rookie Aaron Nola was charged with the task of stemming the tide. A win would be great. But, at this point, keeping the Diamondbacks in single digits seemed like a feat unto itself. When Arizona’s first three hitters reached on singles, all bets were off. Nola managed to get through it allowing only two. The Phils plated single runs in the second, third and fourth to take a 3-2 lead before Newton’s Third Law struck again with a 2-run Arizona rally in the fifth. Resiliently, the visiting Phillies answered with a four-run top of the sixth, highlighted by Cameron Rupp’s 3-run tater off of D’backs lefty Keith Hessler. Jeanmar Gomez and Luis Garcia weren’t perfect. But, they got the lead to Ken Giles who has been very dependable. For the second time since his promotion to closer, Giles entered in the eighth and locked down a four-out save. Phillies 7, D’backs 6.
The x-ray’s on Franco’s wrist were negative. But, he was still a question mark for the weekend in Wisconsin. Additionally, the acquisition of infielder Tyler Pastornicky earlier in the week provided the kind of infield depth that made a Chase Utley trade seem even more likely, especially since the veteran second baseman had continued to swing the bat well, going 3-for-7 in two starts in Phoenix. Reports of an ‘official’ offer from the San Francisco Giants began to surface.
Rookie lefthander Adam Morgan allowed only three hits and retired the last 11 Milwaukee Brewers he faced. But, the Phils’ offense never solved Wily Peralta and went 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Brewers 3, Phillies 1.
An RBI single by Ryan Howard in the first was followed by an Utley solo homer in the third to give Jerome Williams a 2-0 lead. The Brewers tied it up in the fifth and added single runs in the seventh and eighth while the Phillies were going 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Brewers 4, Phillies 2.
Having dropped the first six games in the season series, it was Harang’s turn to try to figure out the Brew Crew. The Phillies lost a whole lot of games in the 20th Century, but they were never swept in a season series of seven or more games. This, however, is the 21st Century. Jonathan Lucroy continued his reign of terror with a first inning triple. He scored on Ryan Braun’s ground out. Things were relatively calm until the bottom of the fifth when Braun’s grand slam topped off a five-run frame and closed out the season sweep. Brewers 6, Phillies 1.
The fall back to earth is never a comfortable trip. The issues that plagued this team all season had taken a summer holiday for a few weeks. But, they came roaring back this week; susceptible pitching and a lack of clutch hitting to name a few. The week ahead presents as much of a mental challenge to this squad as it does a physical challenge.
Looking ahead –
The looming possibility of an Utley trade will continue to weigh on this team. With four or five teams rumored to be showing interest and Utley swinging a hot bat (13-for-26, 5 2B, 5 RBI), now is the time to pull that trigger.
After an off-day on Monday, there will be two at The Bank with the Toronto Blue Jays followed by four games in Miami against the Marlins.
Whitey of the Week –
Andres Blanco, the man they call Whitey, stepped in on Tuesday night when Franco was injured. The Venezuelan veteran provided solid defense and popped two solo homers this week while the rookie recuperated.
One-Two Punch of the Week –
In a week when there wasn’t much positive to report, Hector Neris and Elvis Araujo shined brightly. The righty and lefty relievers each appeared in three games, combining for 7 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 8 K and 0 ER.